Budget 2020 – Watch this Space for Planning and Infrastructure

Read more articles by: Emily Knowles,

In his first budget since taking on the job, the Chancellor sets out an ambitious package of investment in housing and also in the infrastructure needed to support it. These are measures which should encourage the building of further affordable housing, and also lead to infrastructure being put in place to support the regeneration of high streets and town centres and improve connectivity, especially in areas where (to use the government’s term) “levelling up” is needed. Such measures are of course to be welcomed.

At the same time, and somewhat unoriginally, the failure to build more (affordable) homes is once again blamed on the planning system and bold claims are made to “bring the planning system into the 21st century” and “explore long-term reforms to the planning system, rethinking planning from first principles”. Nothing, at this stage, in the least bit concrete is said about how this is actually proposed to be achieved.

At a glance

  • Affordable Homes Programme: extended with a new multi-year settlement of 12bn available from the start of the 2021/22 financial year. This will be distributed by Homes England and the GLA to support housing associations and encourage developers to build new affordable housing
  • Housing Infrastructure Fund: £1.1bn allocated to unlock 70,000 homes in 9 key areas.
  • Brownfield Housing Fund: £400m for “pro-development Councils and ambitious mayoral combined authorities
  • Transforming Cities Fund: £1bn will be allocated to deliver a range of local transport schemes across the country
  • £4.2bn from 2022-23 for five-year funding settlements for 8 Mayoral Combined Authorities to put forward ambitious plans
  • £27bn for motorways and other key roads

What questions remain and what does it mean for you?

  • The government hopes that investment in the Affordable Homes Programme, along with the use of HIF to unlock housing in specific areas, will help to stimulate housing and infrastructure growth across the country and bring in a further £38bn in public and private investment. However, it is not yet clear what tenures will be funded through the Affordable Homes Programme or how successful investment will be given the unpredictable financial climate.
  • The budget also commits the government to launching a long-term Single Housing Infrastructure Fund to be used to fund strategic infrastructure and assembling land for development, and renewed commitment to a landmark National Infrastructure Strategy which will transform the UK’s economic infrastructure. At this stage no details have been revealed as to the detail of these or how they will work and so this is very much a ‘watch this space’.
  • MHCLG will shortly set out “comprehensive reforms to bring the planning system into the 21st century…aiming to create a simpler planning system and improve the capacity, capability and performance of LPAs” and a White Paper is expected in the Spring. As with previous budgets, much is made of the constraints placed on house building by the planning system and there is very much a sense that the failure to build more houses lies with local planning authorities. For example, there are promises that “where LPA’s fail to meet their local housing need there will be firm consequences, including a stricter approach taking to the release of land for development and greater government intervention”. The last Housing White Paper (‘Fixing Our Broken Housing Market’), published over 3 years ago, had bold plans for the UK’s planning system but was somewhat overtaken by other political events. It will therefore be interesting to see what this government has in store for the planning system.

Emily Knowles


Sharpe Pritchard LLP

Posted in Emily Knowles, Latest news and blog.