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Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015

Once again George Osborne donned his fluorescent jacket and chose to be photographed in a variety of building sites to emphasise that he was intending to place a clear emphasis on house building. He referred to a “growing crisis of home ownership”, pledging to double the Housing Budget to deliver 400,000 affordable housing units by 2020/2021 which would concentrate on Low Cost Home ownership. Included in this would be 200,000 starter homes which would be sold at a 20% discount compared to market value to young first time buyers supported by a £2.3 billion fund for up to 60,000 of these as well as 135,000 helped by: Shared Ownership homes which would be open to all households earning less than £80,000 outside London and £90,000 in London.

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Additional eligibility for Share Homes

More “thorough reform of the planning system” was promised as well as relaxation and removal of some of the restrictions such as the ability of Local Authorities to set additional eligibility criteria for Shared Homes.

There will be more appropriate land released for housing as well as proposals to re-designate unused commercial land for starter homes.

The development industry largely welcomed these proposals, coupled with widespread surprise and some relief that the Government has not chosen to propose cuts as deeply as some had feared.

New rate of stamp duty

Another aspect of the announcements was on Buy to Let where the Chancellor announced the introduction of a new rate of stamp duty at 3% on the purchase of buy to let homes and second homes from April next year. This will discourage Buy to Let investors but may mean that buyers at the bottom end of the market will have less competition.

The reforms proposed to the planning system are intended to enable it to deliver more homes more quickly, imposing a new delivery test on Local Authorities against the number of homes set out in their local plans.

Even in these cash starved times the Chancellor has offered money to support his housing proposals and transport infrastructure with new money for Transport for North and the Department for Transport’s capital budget increasing by 60% to fund HS2, train electrification and road investment programme.

New package of planning measures

A lot of commentators were taken aback by the Chancellor’s jaunty demeanour and planning practitioners, including the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), were generally welcoming of the new package of planning measures although, as ever, we will need to see the detail of what is proposed.

The Campaign to protect Rural England expressed disappointment by the lack of attention to rural issues in the Autumn Statement and they would like to see a greater recognition from Government of the contribution that rural areas make to the UK economy.