New government must prioritise housing and infrastructure

Out-Law News | 26 Jul 2019 | 4:05 pm | 2 min. read

The UK's new prime minister must prioritise investment in infrastructure and large-scale housing projects, the latter of which should be incorporated into the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) planning regime, experts at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, have urged.

In his first address to the House of Commons, Boris Johnson promised that the new government would announce "investment in vital infrastructure, full fibre roll out, transport and housing", with the intention to "improve the quality of people's lives, fuel economic growth and provide opportunity".

While Johnson's statement on the government's priorities reiterated his commitment to ensuring that the UK leaves the European Union on 31 October 2019 with or without a negotiated withdrawal agreement in place, the speech also referred to road and rail investments, investments in broadband and 5G connectivity, and the previous government's 2050 net zero carbon emissions target.

Gilbey Iain

Iain Gilbey

Partner

Now is the time for Government to legislate to fast-track large scale housing projects as Nationally Significant Infrastructure.

Johnson has also appointed Newark, East Midlands MP Robert Jenrick to the role of housing, communities and local government secretary, replacing previous incumbent James Brokenshire. Esther McVey has been appointed as housing minister, replacing Kit Malthouse.

Housing expert Iain Gilbey of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said that the new government should act now to legislate to fast-track large-scale housing projects as NSIPs, "rather than relying solely on time-consuming and uncertain local determination".

"Such a move could send a strong message to developers and investors that the UK government is serious in its intent to 'fix the broken housing market', by taking a much more strategic approach to housing delivery," he said.

"In the meantime, the maximum threshold for housing units connected with major infrastructure projects should be increased from 500 to 5,000 to speed up delivery of housing, alongside nationally significant infrastructure, across the UK," he said.

The NSIP regime was introduced in order to streamline the decision-making process for projects designated as being 'nationally significant'. It does not currently cover large-scale housing projects, although "related housing development" consisting of no more than 500 units may be included in an NSIP development consent order.

Owen Robbie_November 2019

Robbie Owen

Partner

We look forward to the government providing renewed assurances, commitment and direction on infrastructure investment.

Infrastructure planning expert Robbie Owen of Pinsent Masons welcomed the prime minister's commitments on infrastructure, and called for more details.

"The prime minister has committed to making the UK the greatest and most prosperous economy on earth by 2050," he said. "As such, we welcome his commitment to investing in infrastructure and much-needed housing and look forward to the government providing renewed assurances, commitment and direction on these issues."

"The government must start by urgently elevating the status of the Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford arc initiative, including bringing forward a National Policy Statement setting out the strategic infrastructure required for the over one million homes that sit at the heart of this initiative. It should also conduct a swift and clear review of HS2 so that Phase 1 of this vital project can get fully underway as soon as possible and Phase 2 accelerated. Finally, it should confirm its support for Northern Powerhouse Rail and the Trans-Pennine route upgrade," he said.

Priorities for Jenrick's department should include a review of the various means of creating locally accountable development corporations for housing, infrastructure and regeneration, which are badly in need of modernisation, Owen said.