We need to make the most of shovel-ready regeneration, by Chris Brown

As the Chancellor hunts for ways to inject growth into the economy, it seems likely he will be considering a variety of housing initiatives such as Build to Rent, Custom Build and shovel-ready projects.

He could also do worse than to look at the raft of ready-to-go regeneration projects around the country that have been derailed by investor uncertainty - from the regeneration of former warehouses in Liverpool to that of residential sites in Newcastle and Cardiff.

The finding of suitable projects could be a two-way process – planning authorities could investigate projects with unimplemented, stalled or stalling planning permissions and developers could be invited to apply for the support they need to get their project moving.

Tightening up delivery monitoring in the planning system would help to identify stalled schemes. The ability to track when planning permissions are commenced and completed is a missing element in a joined up system of housing delivery and economic growth.

The Public Accounts Committee last week again criticised the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) for not making the construction of homes an objective of the public land disposal process or even monitoring delivery. The DCLG and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) both agreed that they would seek to intervene in the event of construction stalling.

The most cost effective methods to restart stalled projects will vary from place to place, and the options available will be constrained by State Aid rules, but there will be a number of potential routes - from providing grants for sub-market housing, to taking on leases at sub-market rents on commercial buildings, to funding local infrastructure.

Any such interventions will need to be offered with conditions; an immediate start is the most obvious, but agreements should also make provisions to ensure high quality design and a share of any future financial benefits.

The deals themselves could be made by employing consultants from local and national surveying practices and incentivising them for successful on site delivery.

As a short term policy, this would work because the projects that benefit will be those that would have gone ahead had the vote on membership of the European Union gone the other way. Which means it is as close an equivalent as you can get to giving £350 million a week to the NHS, while still providing a significant economic boost.

It will also help to smooth the emerging difficulties in the construction market, where the prices of imported material are rising and sub-contractor margins are coming under increasing pressure.

The Government is currently taking some action itself – via Accelerated Construction and HCA funding schemes - but there is a danger of a new set of policies for everyone else, with rules that exclude many good projects.

We will probably see headline-grabbing measures around Build to Rent, Smart Construction and HCA-led financial instruments.

We need to get good projects started now. Given the lead time for the market to adjust to new policy initiatives, we also need pragmatism.

Perhaps Brexit will be the trigger to restart regeneration - something that has been missing since 2008.

Chris Brown is executive chairman of developer Igloo Regeneration.


Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Join the conversation with PlanningResource on social media

Follow Us:
Planning Jobs