27th May Journal Column

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Last week saw the Queen deliver her speech for the State Opening of Parliament for 2016-2017. The speech sets out the government’s plans for the next few years, some of which we know might not happen, but it gives us insight into which direction we are heading.

A Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill has been announced, which is wiping the requirements for developers to carry out archaeological and wildlife surveys before starting new housing projects. Pre-commencement planning conditions will now only be imposed by local planning authorities when necessary.

The new regulations, or lack of them, will hopefully speed up the process of building new homes. A lot of the time planning conditions are overused, and in most cases, misused, with planning permission granted anyway, so it’s just a long and gruelling process to get there, meaning the process of constructing new homes is slowed right down. There are also plans to make compulsory purchase, the power to purchase privately owned land or property for public use, ‘clearer, fairer and faster’, which again will speed up the process of buying land and building new houses – which is never a bad thing!

The bill is to support the government’s plans to deliver a million new homes by 2020. For me, the idea of one million new homes sounds amazing but it is very ambitious, so anything that will help us hit that target I am fully in support of.

The National Infrastructure Commission, which was established by George Osborne last year, will be put on a statutory basis and given the task of setting out a “clear, strategic vision on the future infrastructure that is needed to ensure the economy is fit for 2050,” which is a huge step forward for the commission.

The government’s decision to establish the National Infrastructure Commission as independent from government, gives the body the ability to assess the UK’s long-term infrastructure needs, identify the best way to respond, and then deliver projects that are both time and cost efficient.

The Queen also promised that the government will continue to support the development of the Northern Powerhouse, which is what we want to hear!

It’s going to be another year or so until we start to say change in the industry in the North East thanks to the Northern Powerhouse. In 2017 we’ll see elected mayors in the Northern regions and local control over housing and transport, so who knows what’s going to happen next year.

All in all, the Queen delivered good news for the industry, in particular house builders, I’m excited to see the new bills and plans put into action and see what the next year holds for the industry.