Households could be hit with costly extra bills for home improvements under plans by the Welsh Government to levy a so-called “Conservatory Tax” which should be scrapped, the Secretary of State for Wales will urge today (19th June 2014).
In a keynote speech to the annual Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) conference, David Jones MP will warn that the measure will force people in Wales to spend hundreds or thousands of pounds on extra work to their homes in addition to the cost of the extension or home improvement.
Mr Jones will highlight how the policy – set to start next month in Wales - was rejected by the UK Government in England after research showed it would discourage nearly 40% of households from undertaking home improvements in the first place.
During his speech, Mr Jones will also call for a radical overhaul of the planning system in Wales which is being bogged down by bureaucracy and red tape and has led to a fall in the number of houses being built.
Mr Jones will also say that more power needs to be decentralised from Cardiff and given to local councils as they are best placed to make decisions on behalf of their local communities.
During his speech, Mr Jones will also highlight how:
The latest figures from the ONS show output in Wales lagging behind Great Britain in construction and housing. Over the last year, new house building decreased by 6.7% in Wales while growth of 33.6% was recorded across Great Britain.
Wales’s biggest housebuilder, Redrow, has estimated that as a result of Welsh Government requirements for the sustainable building code and for all new homes to be fitted with sprinklers, by 2016 the cost of building a house in Wales will be up to £13,000 more than across the border in England.
Another major housebuilder, Persimmon Homes, said last year that it would stop new home construction in parts of the south Wales valleys, blaming planning rules and the cost of regulation.
Mr Jones will tell the conference:
The UK government is speeding up the planning process. Guidance has been simplified - reducing often 1,000 of pages of impenetrable jargon to around 50 pages of clearly written guidance.
Through our red tape challenge, almost half the housing and construction regulations considered will be scrapped or improved - changes which are estimated to save businesses nearly £90 million a year.
However, all too often the Welsh Government seems intent on increasing the regulatory burdens on councils, businesses and households rather than reducing them.
By imposing more and more onerous building regulations in Wales, the Welsh Government is increasing costs to house-builders of constructing the starter homes so many families desperately need and putting up the price of those homes, so that more people will struggle to get onto the property ladder.
I urge the Welsh Government to take forward, as a matter of priority, effective reforms to the planning system to enable Wales to develop a truly modern economy.