By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East
Last week saw the Queen announce her first Conservative Speech in almost two decades. The speech set out David Cameron’s plans for the years ahead and gave us insight into which direction he wants to take the country. From the bills and laws mentioned, there were a few which will directly affect the construction industry.
The Housing Bill includes plans to extend the Right to Buy scheme, giving one million people the chance to buy their properties. A huge step as up to now only council tenants have had the right to buy the homes they had previously rented.
The scheme sounds good theoretically, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out. The reality is that authorities will have to sell off existing stock before they can even begin to fund and deliver the promise of affordable properties.
Plans were also announced to create 200,000 new starter homes, which will be offered to first-time buyers under 40 at 20 per cent below the open market value. It’s all good and well promising to provide these starter homes, but we must ensure we can meet the huge demand for housing it will create.
The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has suggested that 200,000 houses will be needed every year to meet the rising demand. If we fail to meet such demand then these schemes will have very limited impact on the housing market
Also included in the speech was the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill which will see power handed over to cities with newly elected metro mayors to help build the Northern Powerhouse. The new bill is positive news for our industry as it will allow cities to take responsibility for issues like transport, housing, skills, health and social care.
These plans have huge potential although devolution could be disastrous if it leads to a number of disconnected approaches. The devolved authorities must never lose sight of the bigger picture, and ensure that their plans fit in seamlessly to Britain’s national infrastructure.
The bills all provide potential for the construction industry and with David Cameron insisting that the North East won’t be left behind during the Conservative government; I’m feeling optimistic for construction in the North East in the years ahead.
Cameron promised us big things, from dualling the A1 to improving the A19 and investing in High Speed Rail. These are all things needed in the North East to ensure it continues to grow and creates jobs. Let’s hope we get everything we’ve been promised…