Yesterday’s White Paper on housing set out the Government’s preferred strategy in tackling the country’s housing crisis. The paper promised to deliver 225,000 to 275,000+ new homes per year in order to meet increasing demand, which could mean that almost one million new homes could be built by 2020.
The White Paper also discussed the wider role of local authorities in delivering the higher housing volumes, planning permission changes to make the delivery easier, modern methods of construction which would reduce construction time, supply chain improvements and the importance of quality within new builds.
This is how the industry responded:
Tassos Kougionis, Principal Consultant – Residential, at BSRIA’s Sustainable Construction Group, said: "BSRIA welcomes this timely and very important ‘radical blueprint for change’. This heralds a new era for housing, with fresh opportunities for members and industry alike.
"But we must not forget that building homes is a matter of quality as well as quantity. Our current focus on delivering volume makes quality more important than ever. Government, industry and stakeholders all need to work together to guarantee that communities’ needs and wellbeing are at the very centre of our decisions. Indeed, that these new homes will be well thought through and designed accordingly."
Greenbelt vs Brownfield
Merrick Denton-Thompson, President of the Landscape Institute said "Green Belt is a controversial issue and I welcome the improved clarity that proposals for amending NPPF Green Belt policies offer, in particular the suggestion that where land is removed from the Green Belt, the impacts should be offset by compensatory improvements to the environmental quality or accessibility of remaining Green Belt land.
"However, I am concerned about the emphasis on re-use of brownfield land for high density housing. This presumption in favour of housing first will inevitably lead to the loss of potential informal amenity spaces, play and recreation areas. Similarly, higher housing densities around commuter hubs must go hand in hand with access to high quality green space. That way, communities can feel the benefits of a multi-functional green infrastructure that is safer, stimulates community cohesion through sociable and play opportunities. It also helps to reduce flood risks, supports healthier living and mitigate climate change."
Roy Pinnock, planning partner at law firm Dentons, commented "The introduction of a 10% home ownership requirement for affordable housing delivery is a huge, and sensible, climb down from the zealous Starter Homes approach that defined last year's planning legislation. The scope to use wider Discounted Market Sale tenures rather than the tightly constrained Starter Homes product will be a relief to developers and lenders. The devil is in the detail though – is 10% of all affordable provision to be home ownership or a fixed tariff of 10% of the total?"
Small house builders
Rhian Kelly, CBI Infrastructure Director, said "It’s encouraging the Government is looking at how to make it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to succeed in the market. Taking a clearer, more strategic approach to public land release will also see more bricks being laid, so we welcome the Government turning its eye to this developing area."
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said "Delivering more homes on small sites doesn’t just provide opportunities for SME builders but on average delivers homes more quickly than on large sites. This White Paper will result in ambitious new housing targets for councils which they will have to deliver against – these targets will not be met through an over-reliance on large developers and large sites. If local authorities fail to meet their targets they could lose control over their own planning policy and the threat of this should provide the impetus for councils to push more small sites through the system. It is in everyone’s interest to see SMEs play a far greater role in house building and small sites are key to this.”
Kieran White, managing director at Vision Modular Systems, said "Modular construction has huge potential to help deliver thousands of new homes more quickly. Today’s white paper emphasises the need to create capacity and we believe that offering stability and certainty to our industry is crucial off-site manufacturing is to become a viable solution.
"Government support for modular construction must be comprehensive and shouldn’t focus simply on capacity. Regardless of how many modules a factory can produce, there is still the problem of who will use them. If modular is to be rolled out across the UK, initiatives need to focus on boosting capacity, while also maintaining a steady rate of demand.
"The modular developments sprouting up across the UK today are a world away from the post-war prefabs of years gone by. The quality of design and materials makes modular housing a viable alternative to traditional construction. This allied with the ageing demographic of the UK construction workforce presents the opportunity for modular to build more with less."