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Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak MP, delivered the Budget 2020 on 11 March 2020. We bring together the most important features for infrastructure, housebuilding and the planning regime.
The full text of the Budget 2020 is available here.
The Budget commits the government to a total of £640bn of gross capital infrastructure investment, including:
A Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Infrastructure Fund is also announced, to establish CCS in at least two UK sites, one by the mid-2020s, a second by 2030.
Although the government has retired the PFI and PF2 models, there are still nearly 600 existing PFI/PF2 contracts in England. Accordingly, the government will focus on making sure they are well managed and represent value for money, allocating
£2m in 2020–21 to carry out targeted contract reviews.
As previously announced, the National Infrastructure Strategy, which was to be published alongside the Budget 2020, is delayed until ‘later in the spring’. This will respond to the recommendations of the National Infrastructure Commission’s
(NIC) National Infrastructure Assessment, and is likely to contain more detailed commitments on support for major infrastructure schemes. The Budget notes that the government is taking action to review the Green Book, which sets out how decisions
on major investment programmes are appraised in order to make sure that government investment spreads opportunity across the UK.
In terms of housebuilding, the Budget commits the government to:
The Budget also:
The Budget identifies land availability, as constrained by the planning system, as the most significant barrier to building more houses. It confirms that the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government will ‘shortly’
publish comprehensive reforms to the planning system, followed by the long-awaited Planning White Paper ‘in the spring’. As expected, these reforms will ‘aim to create a simpler planning system and improve the capacity, capability
and performance of Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) to accelerate the development process’, but will reportedly also rethink planning ‘from first principles, to ensure the system is providing more certainty to the public, LPAs and
developers’. The Budgets states that where LPAs fail to meet their local housing need, there will be ‘firm consequences’, including a stricter approach taken to the release of land for development and greater government intervention.
Given that this fiscal event was pushed back from November 2019 due to the General Election, it is perhaps surprising that a number of announcements on spending, infrastructure commitments and planning reform have been pushed back, either to the CSR,
publication of the National Infrastructure Strategy (expected in the spring) or the Planning White Paper (also expected in the spring).
Nevertheless, the first Budget since the UK’s exit from the EU announces a number of investments in regional infrastructure which will broadly be welcomed, particularly given that there is an apparent bias towards areas outside of London benefitting
from investment. Similarly, continued funding for housebuilding to continue to reach the government’s target of building 300,000 houses a year will no doubt be well-received, as will the lack of inflammatory comments about land banking by
developers which have featured in previous budgets.
There is a disappointing lack of detail on what wider planning reforms the government is proposing. A Housing White Paper was first announced by Theresa May in 2019, and at that stage was to include reforms to permitted development rights for upwards
extensions and demolition. The mention in the Budget of the government ‘rethinking planning from first principles’ might be a reference to some of the controversial and far-reaching reforms, including ending detailed land use allocations
and introducing a binary zonal system, set out in a report by
the Policy Exchange in early 2020. The author of that report has since been appointed as the government’s new housing and planning special advisor
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