Last Wednesday, the Chancellor, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, stood up to deliver what may have been the speech of his career. With the Conservatives low in the polls, local elections looming and the General Election feeling ever more imminent, it was down to Hunt to lay out what he planned to do to get the country (and his own party) safely to the other side. With this wider context in mind, there was little-to-no news about housing or planning.
Is no news always good news? Those of us who are politically inclined and in the planning industry will have been watching the budget with baited breath to see what line the Government would take on housing and planning. It turns out that the line is: there is no line. As Keir Starmer said in his response, the Government does not “want to hear about…housebuilding rates falling”.
However, outside of the mention of Veterans’ Housing, what did the Government say that might have implications for the housing and planning industry?
The Chancellor announced that the Government would be launching 12 Investment Zones across the UK, “re-focussed” to catalyse 12 new zones, including four across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Though the pool of investment is fairly meagre: £80 million over five years. This is just over £500,000 per zone per year.
Mr Hunt also launched 16 Regeneration Projects “backed by over £200 million” from Blackburn to Ashington, it seems that these will be focussed on certain red wall seats that the Government will be fighting hard at the next General Election (and in the upcoming local elections). The same goes for their £630 million for 20 Levelling Up Partnerships.
The Government also promised another £200 million for “maintaining and improving local roads and potholes”. The argument that new development puts a strain on local infrastructure, especially roads, will hopefully hold even less sway after this investment is utilised across the country.
This budget is a consequence of the Chancellor dealing with vocal anti-housing / anti-development backbench Conservative MPs, upcoming local elections and people wanting substance from Government about their plans for tackling inflation and improving investment, rather than updates on housing targets.