Speech

Home Builders Federation annual lunch 2011

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Draft text of the speech - may differ from the delivered version. In recent years you had an ever changing parade of Housing Ministers addressing…


Draft text of the speech - may differ from the delivered version.

In recent years you had an ever changing parade of Housing Ministers addressing you.

Even though the faces changed the message remained the same.

You were told again and again to build more homes.

Targets were set.

Taxpayers’ money was pumped into schemes.

And what happened?

We ended up building fewer homes than even during the Great Depression.

In opposition I set out a different approach - scrapping top down targets, and giving people the tools to get Britain building again.

As Shadow Housing Minister in 2008, I outlined how we would place incentives at the heart of our policy - the New Homes Bonus.

Some of you were sceptical.

Some of you probably still are.

But even the sceptics knew things had to change.

So in power we’ve moved swiftly…

New Homes Bonus

Within a year of being in Government, Local Authorities have already received the first of six years worth of New Homes Bonus cash.

I have been receiving letters from councils all over the country welcoming that money and telling me how it has started to change local opinion, among councillors and communities on the ground, to back more growth.

Incentives will deliver what people want in their neighbourhoods - bringing the benefits of new homes to the wider community.

That will be welcome news to you.

After all building homes is how you make your living.

It’s how your companies are profitable.

It’s how you grow your businesses.

And it’s how you create jobs.

What you need is to be free, free to build.

What we need is a housing market that really works.

A market driven by those incentives…

…freed from over-centralised planning.

A market liberated from unnecessary burdens and over-zealous regulations.

Bluntly, we need the housing market to work - but as Stewart Baseley suggested, to get this country back on its feet, and you can be part of this important process.

Economic Growth

Because getting house-building going is essential to increasing the pace of economic growth.

So having acted to cut the deficit to prevent us looking like the Greek, Irish or Portuguese economies…this Government is now going for growth.

In the Budget we introduced the FirstBuy scheme to help over 10,000 struggling First Time Buyers this year and next. Resource has also been given to Scotland, so across the UK.

We are scrapping the unfavourable Stamp Duty treatment for bulk purchases of new homes to encourage greater equity investment.

And we announced that we will accelerate the release of surplus public sector land.

My ‘Build Now, Pay Later’ scheme quite literally means that you’ll be able to build homes and sell them, and only then pay for the land.

And we’ve made an historic commitment to reduce burdens on the house-building industry by March 2015.

I’d previously asked you in this room, the industry, to tell me which bits of red-tape were tying you in knots.

I’ve got that list and I’m gradually working my way through it.

But I don’t want to see new bureaucracy get in the way either.

You might recall that there was some talk about a “Local Standards Framework” that was recently floated - the idea being that Local Authorities could decide what standards to apply to new homes, from a pre-agreed “menu”/list of different choices.

You’ve been discussing these ideas with Government.

There are fears that devolving control to Local Authorities may actually increase regulation.

Interestingly, councils aren’t that keen either.

So I can tell you now that I don’t propose pushing forward with the “Local Standards Framework”.

Instead it will be for the industry, Local Authorities and Government to work together to find the right solutions.

Because I can tell you one thing for certain - today is the day when the Government piling on the regulations are over.

Because I know that the cumulative impact of bureaucracy, regulations and red-tape simply erodes viability.

Sustainable Development

But I want to go much further than just banishing building bureaucracy.

The Plan for Growth published alongside the Budget this year made it clear we will be a Pro-Sustainable Development Government.

And we’ll shortly be publishing a presumption in favour of sustainable development in the new National Planning Policy Framework.

Now this is a document that will take over one thousand pages of Planning Law and a further six thousand pages of Guidance (much of it as you know contradictory) and replace the whole lot with one simple, short document!

No more PPS’s. No more PPG’s.

The Framework will be strong where it needs to be. It will have policies that support the Government’s priorities for economic growth.

Almost all the recommendations from the Killian Pretty report have now been implemented and the Plan for Growth reiterated our commitment to taking forward the findings of the Penfold review.

But I still want to go further, for example.

We’re consulting on allowing easier conversion of empty office buildings to homes.

And as you know, we’re abolishing the regional tier of the planning system and simplifying the planning application process.

But I know it’s not just about getting the right planning decisions - speed counts too for your business.

So we are introducing a 12-month Planning Guarantee - to ensure that bureaucracy doesn’t get in the way of business.

Zero Carbon

We’ll shortly announce final details on the definition for Zero Carbon homes.

This will be an historic moment in our drive forward to slash carbon emissions and tackle climate change.

And we’ll do it without piling unfair costs on housebuilders.

It will be practical, workable and green.

Homes will be built to zero carbon.

Not just in design, but in reality - they way that they function!

But we’re not trying to have you second guess how many Plasma TVs the home owner decides to hang on their wall.

And, in any case, that’s already covered by other EU Carbon trading rules.

Conclusion

So this Government is committed to planning reform…to sustainable development…and to reducing regulation.

And whereas in Whitehall we have an overall One In… One Out policy - that’s to say before you can introduce regulation, you have to remove something else first.

I want to do even better than that for the building industry.

So carry on bringing me your red tape and I’ll absolutely delight in tasking my officials to slash that tape.

This is a continuing process - not a one-off exercise.

I will continue listen to your concerns and free you to do your job.

And together, I hope we can build the homes this country so desperately needs.

Thank you.