Spring Statement 2019 – a look behind the headlines


The Spring Statement on 13 March, delivered amidst a flurry of Brexit votes, was accompanied by several noteworthy housing and planning messages intended to support the government’s continued ambition to raise housing supply to reach 300,000 a year on average.

A three-year Spending Review will be launched before the summer recess and will be concluded alongside an autumn Budget. The 2019 Spending Review will have a focus on the outcomes achieved for the money invested in public services.  In  that context, alongside the Spring Statement, a revised Public Spending Public Value Framework was released which would guide decisions in the Spending Review.

Future Homes Standard – There will be a consultation this year on what could be a wide-ranging standard to apply from 2025 so that new build homes are future-proofed with low carbon heating – this could tackle previous concerns the Chancellor has expressed about new-build quality.

A consultation on Infrastructure Finance was published seeking views on how the government can best support private infrastructure investment in the context of the UK’s changing relationship with the European Investment Bank.  It also asks if the government should consider alternative forms of infrastructure finance support for housing associations in the context of the end of European Investment Bank funding.

The Chancellor reiterated the government’s commitment to publishing a National Infrastructure Strategy – the first of its kind – setting out the government’s priorities for economic infrastructure and responding to recommendations in the National Infrastructure Commission’s National Infrastructure Assessment.

Letwin Review – the government issued its response to the review of build-out rates on large sites conducted by Sir Oliver Letwin. It stated there was ‘widespread acceptance of Sir Oliver’s analysis across the sector’ and confirms the findings ‘that it is the market absorption rate that determines the rate at which developers build out large sites’. Additional planning guidance on housing diversification will be published shortly.  A focus on evolving the existing system of developer contributions and gathering evidence to explore the case for further reform was confirmed.

It was announced that an Accelerated Planning Green Paper would be published ‘later this year’ on how greater capacity and capability, performance management and procedural improvements can accelerate the end-to-end planning process.  This will also draw on the Rosewell Review, which made recommendations to reduce the time taken to conclude planning appeal inquiries.  Government will also consider the case for further reforms to the compulsory purchase regime.

Permitted development – Government will implement an immediate package of permitted development right measures in the spring, with the more complex matters, including on upward extensions, covered in a further package of regulations in the autumn.  There will be a range of reforms in this area and government will shortly publish “Better Planning for High Streets”.  This will set out tools to support local planning authorities in reshaping high streets, particularly with the use of compulsory purchase and local development orders.

The Spring Statement is an opportunity for the Chancellor to respond to the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) forecasts for the growth and the public finances. The OBR now includes as a policy risk the expansion of right-to-buy to tenants of housing associations given the costs of discounts would fall on the Treasury and notes that despite the local pilot scheme, work at a national level is “ongoing”.

So, there is still plenty happening for the housing sector – or not happening – as MPs continue to debate Brexit.

For details about the key announcements from the Spring Statement see our On the Day Briefing.