Spring Statement 2019: key announcements for architects explained
Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his Spring Statement in the House of Commons on Wednesday 13 March. With just over 2 weeks before the date that the UK is due to exit the EU and no agreed deal in clear sight, the Chancellor emphasised the catastrophic impact that a no-deal Brexit could have on the UK economy and any future growth or spending.
In our response, Ben Derbyshire stated that the statement had included some “modest but welcome changes” however acknowledged that against the threat of a no deal Brexit, these provide little reassurance in such an unstable political climate. You can read more about the key announcements in the Spring Statement – and the RIBA’s response – below.
The Chancellor was keen to announce further funding commitments for housing including; £3 billion towards an Affordable Homes Guarantee Scheme to assist the delivery of 30,000 affordable new homes, £717 million additional funding for the Housing Infrastructure Fund towards 37,000 new homes in West London, Cheshire, Didcot and Cambridge and the establishment of a Future Homes Standard Fund to target the end of the use of fossil fuels for heating systems in all new-builds by 2025. This guaranteed funding attempts to negate some of the impact that a long period of cuts have had on local authority capacity, spending and the delivery of housing and provides the profession with opportunity to continue to deliver high quality, well-designed, affordable homes.
It was also announced that the government will be accepting a number of the recommendations of the Independent Review of Build Out report by Sir Oliver Letwin with the introduction of additional planning guidance to support housing diversification on large sites. In his report, Sir Oliver Letwin concluded that greater differentiation in the types and tenures of housing delivered on large sites would increase build out rates, a view supported by the RIBA in our Ten Characteristics of Places Where People Want to Live report produced last year. This highlights the positive impact of place-making and that through a greater diversity of tenures and types of home alongside improved planning, delivery and maintenance, the supply of high-quality housing is likely to increase. The announcement is therefore welcome, particularly if it can encourage greater recognition on the need for improvement in design quality.
The Chancellor announced that the government would introduce a package of reforms including allowing greater change of use between premises, and a new permitted development right to allow upwards extension of existing buildings to create new homes.
The RIBA responded to the government consultation on planning reform earlier this year and highlighted evidence which showed that extending permitted development rights can lead to substandard housing. Responding to the Spring Statement, Derbyshire said that he was “deeply concerned that further deregulation of the planning system by extending permitted development is in sight. This will push more people into poor quality housing and is completely unacceptable.”
Our recent report Design Matters: Promoting Good Design through the Planning System highlights the tools available through the planning system that can enable local authorities to demand higher standards of design for new housing in their area.
Also announced is the to-be-published Accelerated Planning Green Paper which will set out proposals on how greater capacity and capability, performance management and procedural improvements can accelerate the end-to-end planning process.
The introduction of a Structures and Buildings Allowance was announced, a new, permanent allowance for investments in non-residential structures and buildings to create a more competitive tax regime for businesses. The government intends to lay this legislation early this summer.