Nick Fell, head of residential at Rapleys, said: “A lot has been said about housing in recent weeks but despite this it feels like there is still a lack of crucial focus on the practical delivery of much needed housing in all major political speeches other than very high targets so we are really hoping that this changes with the Autumn Statement.
This year we have had an affordability crisis, there are record levels of people in temporary or substandard accommodation and homelessness numbers are rising. Yet at the same time the Department of Levelling Up has returned £1.9bn to the Treasury unspent, we seem to be relying on private investors for delivering affordable housing, and developers who are struggling with viability and construction costs are being lambasted for taking too long to bring sites forwards.
There has been talk of the removal of housing benefit freeze which would be a boost to the sector but, without the supply needed, there is concern it may also serve to inflate rents still further.
What we need is a robust and practical plan, with private sector input, that will tackle the varying challenges associated with housing provision. One that allows the private and public sector to work together, that fast-tracks the right approach to development, that brings back into circulation the swathes of empty properties that are in disrepair, and that supports, incentivises and rewards developers and housing associations to deliver. And, in the absence of an actual plan from the Autumn Statement, in the very least a commitment to achieve this.”
Jason Lowes, Partner in planning at Rapleys, said: “We have been waiting for the NPPF for a long time and there is still no sign of it despite it being referenced as ‘to follow’ in the Levelling Up Bill which was fast-tracked before the King’s Speech.
However, much in the bill requires both the NPPF and the secondary legislation and guidance which we need to see in order to understand practicalities, so we are really hoping for clarity in or alongside the Autumn Statement and we are crossing our fingers in the hope that both of these will not be further delayed by party politics.
As an industry, we need to avoid any other confusion or delays to much needed development and there have been numerous consultations over the last 18 months across various policies already so the Autumn Statement would be a good chance to clarify some of these. One thing is for certain, local authorities will need to have more resource and guidance to wade through the new responsibilities coming their way from design codes to fines, build out rates to greenbelt and everything in between and we would like to see a strong commitment to this in the Autumn Statement, particularly given planning fee increases have been confirmed to start in early December.”
Simon Harbour, Partner in Building Consultancy at Rapleys says: “The Autumn Statement simply must include provision for reinforcing key buildings in the UK. With the RAAC crisis in schools and other assets, asbestos an ongoing concern and a general need for decarbonisation, we would like to see a real push for supporting the upgrade of a significant amount of properties, and incentivisation for private landlords to do the same. The UK should be at the forefront of brilliant building, leading the way on tech and innovation and, while this is the case for some sectors, we absolutely cannot fall behind on basic health and safety in 2023.”
Dan Cook, Head of Commercial at Rapleys said: “It’s that time of year again when the property world holds its collective breath in the hope that much-needed business rates reforms are finally addressed by the Government. Various consultations have come and gone and nothing has really emerged post-Covid in terms of long-term structural change that will bring positive benefits to a wide array of property industries – from retail to logistics, offices to automotive – and the sector at large, not to mention business and UK plc. Let’s see what happens but given there have been no leaks yet, we may not be able to hold our breath for too long.”
Mark Frostick, Associate in automotive at Rapleys said: “Jeremy Hunt’s rumoured commitment to attract investment into EVs in the UK is well-intentioned but unless this is going to radically transform the number of EV chargers in a robust and practical plan, it may be the wrong place to focus. Only last month we hit 50,000 chargers in the UK – serving some 920,000 EVs currently registered and that doesn’t include the number of hybrids here in the UK. It’s proving very costly to put in EVs to existing petrol stations with up to an 18 year payback, so something could and should be done to incentivise and make this more affordable for forecourt owners in the Statement. We need to be practical as well as ambitious.”
Richard Curry, Head of Retail at Rapleys said: “The property world has been pressing Jeremy Hunt to restore VAT free shopping for international visitors for some time and with the latest figures showing visitors to London’s West End are up 1% compared with 2022 their spending is down 17% and of course this can be partly attributed to VAT. At a time when the high street needs more support, this Government should be removing blockages rather than reinforcing them.”
Jason Mound, Partner in Building Consultancy at Rapleys in Birmingham, says: “It is good news to hear that construction projects associated with energy and utilities will be fast tracked as part of the Autumn Statement. This country is crying out for more self-sufficiency in energy and for a boost to connectivity but, as with all commitments, the devil will be in the detail and we await further clarity on how this will be rolled out with the current planning process and who will be tasked with overseeing it.”
Mike Orr, Partner in Planning at Rapleys in Bristol, says: “We would like to see more incentive for UK investment in regional cities. Bristol in particular has some amazing infrastructure and a massive opportunity for further development thanks to its fast emerging reputation in sustainability, tech and innovation, in addition to its long serving market leading position in industries such as industrial & logistics and international trade.”