As the dust settles on the 2015 general election and Parliament re-opens with a new Conservative government, we at Greengage have followed up our pre-election manifesto analysis with a look at any expected changes in our sector and the challenges facing the government.
The Conservative manifesto announced few new environmental initiatives, other than the headline making scrapping of new onshore wind subsidies. It is therefore likely that environmental and sustainability policy will remain largely the same with Amber Rudd appointed as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. The Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament announced a new Energy Bill that aims to ‘ensure there will be affordable and reliable energy for businesses and families’. The Speech also confirmed support for the Paris 2015 climate change negotiations by stating that a global climate deal is in the UK’s interest because it will “create new opportunities for our low carbon industries”.
Housing was the other key issue mentioned in the Queen’s Speech and as noted in our pre-election analysis, the election was largely focussed on housing rather than planning, which took a back seat as policy, including the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), remains largely unchanged. There are still a number of unanswered questions surrounding the housing plans and their success or otherwise will only be determined once the policy itself becomes clearer:
- Proposed plans for 200,000 starter homes sold at a 20% discount to under-40s are to go ahead but no detail has been given as to how and where they will be delivered and how the infrastructure will be funded;
- The extension of the Right to Buy was also confirmed in the Queen’s Speech but a number of uncertainties surrounding this have been widely discussed; and
- Manifesto pledges said that 90% of suitable brownfield sites would have planning permission by 2020 but as our manifesto analysis queried, there is no definition of what is classed as ‘suitable’. There is also no current inventory of all brownfield sites, a task that would require significant financial input (and time) to undertake. As the Housing Minister (Brandon Lewis MP, retained position) is likely to protect green belt development, building on brownfield sites remains the most likely answer to tackling the housing shortage in London and its suburbs.
In the future, changes to other policies and governmental structure could produce knock-on effects to the industry. It is unknown, for example, what would happen to the housing market were the UK to leave the EU in the promised 2017 referendum. It is also likely that all departments will be cut in the forthcoming budget, to what degree the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) will be cut and if this will have any consequences for planning policy remains to be seen. It is also worth noting the problems of governing with a small majority, as the Conservatives currently have, and as such there is a possibility that new reforms introduced towards the end of their parliamentary term could have difficulty in being passed.
Overall, the stability of a one-party government has not cleared up questions about how the industry might look in five years’ time, although it appears for the short term it will be largely ‘business as usual’.