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Chancellor’s Autumn Statement

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In the autumn statement delivered on 22 November 2023, the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced a number of measures to tackle the planning system that he claims would unlock the building of thousands of more homes.

He advised that building homes in the right places, where people want to live and work, will support economic growth across the United Kingdom and make home ownership a reality for more people. He stated that many planning applications are for housebuilding and the government’s intention is to unlock the building of more homes. As well as investing £110 million over this year and next to deliver high quality nutrient mitigation schemes to unlock 40,000 homes, the government also propose investing £32 million to develop new housing quarters in Cambridge, London and Leeds. In addition, the sum of £450 million is to be allocated to the Local Authority Housing Fund to deliver 2,400 new homes.

On account of the United Kingdom’s present housing shortage, the chancellor’s proposals to release funds to expedite the proposed delivery of thousands of new homes are to be welcomed. In particular, the funding to deliver high quality nutrient mitigation schemes is notably significant because this has provided a detrimental barrier to delivery of housing within many areas the country in recent years.

Whilst these proposals to initiate housebuilding are to be welcomed, they are tempered by the government’s updated consultation dated 21 September 2023 setting out proposed amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework. Amongst its proposals, the government consulted on a removal of the requirement for local planning authorities to continually demonstrate a deliverable five-year housing land supply, providing its housing requirement in its strategic policies is less than five years old. Amendments are also proposed to the National Planning Policy Framework to provide greater protection for the Green Belt in plan-making terms through stating that Green Belt boundaries are not required to be reviewed or altered if this would be the only means of meeting the objectively assessed need for housing over the plan period. Such amendments would clearly be counter-productive to the future delivery of housing.

Whilst the Chancellor’s proposals in the autumn statement support housing delivery, these should be treated with caution because any benefits are likely to be offset if the government proceeds to initiate many of the amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework as set out in its consultation. It is submitted that it would therefore be mistaken to assert that the government’s holistic approach is in support of housing delivery. Furthermore, the overall position is somewhat exacerbated on account of the present government’s precarious tenure given that there is a strong possibility that there could be a change of government in 2024.

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.
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