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Shapps announces dual boost for housebuilding

Housing minister Grant Shapps has announced he is scrapping proposed rules regarding public housebuilding - as well as overhauling local building standards - in a bid to encourage housebuilding.

He said existing regulations were sufficient to deliver high quality homes, and that additional standards for public housing projects would be an unfair and unnecessary expense for developers when the country desperately needs more homes.

Mr Shapps also pledged to end the ‘alphabet soup’ of local building standards and red tape that blights efforts to get developments started, and sweep away the bureaucratic assessment regimes that accompany them. He invited the industry to help develop a new system for local standards so new development meets the needs of local communities, without placing an unnecessary strain on developers.

Currently housebuilders face a complex mix of building standards and codes that are attached to planning permissions. Ministers believe these extra requirements are often unnecessary ‘gold plating’, which can be contradictory and place additional costs on developers, making their projects less viable.

In their place, housebuilders and councils will work together to develop a simple and transparent ‘menu’ of costed standards that will not place unrealistic burdens on developers. Today’s move is designed to make it easier for companies to build new developments where they are wanted, and follows the government’s pledge to match the council tax raised from new homes for the first six years through the New Homes Bonus.

Speaking to the National House Building Council, housing minister Mr Shapps said: “Today is the first step of many towards reducing the unnecessary cost and hassle that the people who build our homes are forced to endure. Last year, housebuilding slumped to the lowest level in peacetime since 1924. We were in the midst of a recession, but the situation was made much worse by regional targets that forced developers into direct conflict with local communities, and compounded by the alphabet soup of regulations and red tape that housebuilders have to navigate.

“We are on the side of families who want more good quality homes available - that’s why we’re scrapping expensive new standards for homes built with Government cash and on public land. There’s no good reason why homes built on public land should be built any differently to those of high quality on private land. So I’m getting rid of this unnecessary requirement, and I’ll be working hard to make sure that, in the long run, the standards that apply to private and public housing are exactly the same.

“I’m also calling time on the cocktail of local building standards that developers have to meet, some of which are directly contradictory. Housebuilders are the experts at building homes, so I’m inviting them to be in charge of developing a new framework for local building standards - one which enables communities to get the high quality homes they demand, but without causing unnecessary costs and delays for developers.”

Proposals for new Core Standards for development funded or on land owned by the Homes and Communities Agency, which could on average have cost developers an additional £8,000 per home, will not be implemented.

The HCA will continue to use existing standards, but Mr Shapps confirmed that in the longer term, the standards that apply to private and public housing should be the same. As a start to this process, all centrally-imposed standards for houses built on surplus central government land will be removed, in a move expected to provide a boost to home builders.

From today, work will begin on a new Local Standards Framework that will be developed and maintained by industry and councils. The Government will help its development, but industry and councils will develop the ideas themselves, to ensure the options proposed meet the needs of local communities, and don’t impose unrealistic burdens on developers. The new local framework will be included in the National Planning Policy Framework, which will be introduced by the summer of 2012.

Mr Shapps also confirmed that the recent review of Building Regulations will be published shortly, and will keep the regulations as the mechanism to set national minimum standards. Starting today, there will be an opportunity for developers to make suggestions for further deregulation of the industry.

The Government made a commitment in the Spending Review to reduce the overall regulatory burden on the house-building industry by March 2015, and today’s announcement is an important step towards this.

COMMENT

House Builders Federation Executive Chairman Stewart Basely said: “Having campaigned for a reduction in the ‘regulatory burden on new homes’ for many years it’s great that the Government has recognised the impact the cost of excessive regulation has on the supply of the homes the country desperately needs. We look forward to working with local and national government to create a simpler, less costly system which will go a long way to helping solve our housing crisis.”

National House Building Council Chief Executive Imtiaz Farookhi said: “I’m delighted that the Minister has chosen to announce details of this critical policy area at our annual lunch later today and welcome the invitation to play a central role in developing the policy process. We look forward to making a positive contribution working with government and others to deliver a successful policy for the industry and new home owners.”

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