The Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon George Osborne MP, delivered his Budget to the House of Commons on 20 March 2013, placing emphasis on reducing the deficit, continued departmental budget reductions, new support for the housing market, and measures to boost private-sector employment.
POS considers the following are key issues of planning interest:
- Regional investment - following the recommendations of Lord Heseltine, the Government has agreed to consolidate regional funding in a single competitive regional growth fund. The Government has also indicated that in the wake of the review, new Local Growth Deals will be implemented to encourage regional growth.
- Infrastructure - the Budget includes an annual provision of £3 billion from 2015-16 for infrastructure, totalling £15 billion over the next decade. The investment will target road, rail and construction projects.
- Energy - the Chancellor has announced that two Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects, the White Rose Project in Yorkshire and the Peterhead project in Aberdeenshire, will be taken forward for government funding. A "generous" new tax arrangement will encourage early investment in the shale gas industry, with planning guidance to be published in the summer.
- Planning - the Chancellor has said that the Government will consult on "allowing further flexibilities between use classes to support changes of use from certain agricultural and retail uses to residential uses to increase responsiveness within the planning system". The Government has also committed to publishing "significantly reduced planning guidance" by the summer.
John Silvester, Society Spokesperson, said " A shortage of affordable mortgages remains the biggest constraint on housing supply, something the government now seems to understand and is looking to address. I am not convinced, however, that further tinkering with the use classes will achieve any fundamental increases in housing supply, but rather could create some unsustainable housing locations. The government's attempts to stimulate activity are welcomed, but we should be wary about getting the planning details right."