Hunt Promises to Boost Housebuilding and Reform Planning

Jeremy Hunt has promised to unlock the construction of tens of thousands of homes and speed-up the planning process in an Autumn Statement designed to slash tax and boost the ailing UK economy.

In an eagerly awaited lunchtime speech at a packed House of Commons, the chancellor set out more than 100 measures he said would support growth.

These included a number of moves to increase housebuilding, such as investing £110m in nutrient-offsetting schemes to overcome barriers to construction in certain areas.

A further £32m will tackle local planning backlogs, while a new permitted development law will make it easier to convert houses into flats. Hunt also extended a scheme that helps social landlords access cheap finance to build affordable homes.

The chancellor said the government would reform the planning system and speed up electricity grid connections. He pledged to ensure that major infrastructure projects are able to receive consent within 30 months, the average time period previously achieved in 2012.

Councils will be asked to offer accelerated planning processes at a cost, although they will be expected to return fees if they do not process applications within an as-yet-unspecified time period.

Meanwhile, the Autumn Statement displayed a concerted effort to get behind freeports, where goods can be imported tariff-free. The chancellor earmarked £150m over the next five years to grow these areas, along with extending the window for tax relief within them.

There was also more than £50m to support regeneration projects around the UK, from Warrington to the Isles of Scilly, along with £20m to fund infrastructure improvements for the Corran Ferry in the Highlands.

Hunt also announced a £960m Green Industries Growth Accelerator to boost manufacturing capabilities for clean-energy sectors such as carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, offshore wind and nuclear.

The chancellor had good news for the construction industry’s self-employed workers, abolishing Class 2 national insurance contributions and reducing Class 4 payments for this group. Meanwhile, the national living wage will rise by almost a tenth to £11.44 from April, increasing the cost of employment for some firms.

The Autumn Statement also indefinitely extended the full expensing measure introduced in the Spring Budget. This allows companies to claim 100 per cent tax relief on certain plant and machinery investments in the first year after purchase.

“In the face of global challenges, we’ve halved inflation, reduced debt and grown our economy,” said Hunt. “We are sticking to a plan that is working and this Autumn Statement for growth will attract £20bn additional business investment per year in the next decade.”

Credit: Construction News

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