House builders and real estate representatives indicate support for National Infrastructure Plan proposals

Out-Law News | 03 Dec 2014 | 5:15 pm | 2 min. read

House builders and real estate industry representatives have indicated support for UK government commitments to speeding up the planning process and providing infrastructure support to major housing projects, but warned that the government's promises must be backed up with resources.

The government's National Infrastructure Plan 2014 (140-page / 4.4 MB PDF) (NIP) was published yesterday by the Treasury. The document set out the government's plans for infrastructure development in the UK "for the next Parliament and beyond" and included several commitments aimed at boosting the supply of housing in the country.

 Liz Peace, chief executive of real estate investors' trade body the British Property Federation, welcomed the NIP commitments. "Delivering the right infrastructure at a local, regional and national level is essential, and today's announcement marks a welcome step in ensuring that the planning system works more effectively in bringing forward development and creating the conditions for growth," said Peace in a statement.

"The property industry has a role to play in regenerating our towns and cities, and so reform of compulsory purchase orders to help bring brownfield land back into use is long overdue," added Peace. "Speeding up section 106 negotiations, which can often drag on for many months, is also hugely welcome, as are proposals to encourage local authorities to process planning applications more speedily."

However, Peace warned that structural reforms would need to be backed up with appropriate resources in order to be effective. "We would urge the government to also ensure that the system is properly resourced at a local level, and to do all it can to drive greater investment in to the built environment as a whole," said Peace.

Brian Berry, chief executive of building trade association the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), said the FMB was particularly encouraged by proposals that seek to speed up the planning process and help bring forward smaller sites for development.

"Government ... can fall into the trap of being excessively focused on large projects, at the risk of ignoring the enormous cumulative capacity of small sites to deliver housing," said Berry in a statement. "One of the major barriers that small builders face is the disproportionate cost and complexity which the planning process tends to inflict on minor applications."

Welcoming proposed measures aimed at speeding up the end-to-end planning process, Berry said: "The publication of data which will ensure greater transparency around processing times for minor development applications is an important step in maintaining focus on smaller sites. A commitment to looking at how to better support the approval of more small sites is also an extremely welcome statement and we look forward to engaging with government on this issue."

"If the government continues to take this comprehensive approach to delivering new housing, we stand a good chance of starting to meet the demand for new homes," said Berry.

Housebuilders' trade body the Home Builders Federation (HBF) also expressed support for the measures proposed in NIP. "Measures to speed up the planning process are positive and what the industry has been calling for," said HBF executive chairman Stewart Baseley yesterday. We need a system that is responsive to current housing needs and not one that acts as a constraint."

"The current system is too slow, overly complex and costly," said Baseley. "Such improvements can only help get more sites started more quickly.