The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has announced a number of new policies, which should help to support construction activity, and further detail has been published including:

  • Changes to Use Classes Order ‐ From 1 September 2020, a number of existing uses will be condensed into a single commercial, business and service use, which means that planning permission will not be required for changing use going forward. There are a list of exemptions, including pubs, bars, nightclubs and take‐away food establishments, which will continue to require planning permission.
  • A new permitted development right ‐ From 31 August 2020, commercial buildings will be able to be replaced with residential buildings using a streamlined prior approval process, rather than a full planning application. There will be a number of qualifications, including a vacancy test of six months, a size limitation of 1,000 square metres, and a height limit of 18 metres.
  • Affordable Homes Guarantee Scheme ‐ A new £3 billion scheme will increase investment in providers of affordable housing and support the delivery of a significant number of new affordable homes. The contract for a delivery partner to operate the scheme should be awarded over the coming weeks and the scheme will be open for business by the end of the year.

The Government has also published guidance on extending construction working hours introduced in the Business and Planning Act. Companies are now able to request extended and flexible site working hours through a fast‐track application process, with Local Authorities having 14 calendar days to make a decision otherwise the revised working hours will be deemed to have been consented to.

The Chancellor has launched this week the 2020 Comprehensive Spending Review, which will set out the Government’s spending plans for the current parliament when it is published in the autumn. Due to the current uncertainty, the Chancellor has not fixed a set spending amount but confirmed that departmental spending will grow in real terms across the period.

Responding to the changes, FIS CEO, Iain McIlwee stated “these are all logical steps that should help to unlock a bit more work and right now it is all about marginal gain.  I hope that this philosophy is taken into the Spending Review, it is easy to look for headlines in “big ticket items” and landmark announcements, but the devil is always in the detail.  The Construction Leadership Council recognises this and is looking at the key markets and what can be done, we are glad to be supporting this work.  Accelerating Government Spending, clearing the bottle-necks and removing red tape, looking at tax incentives (such as the Structural Building Allowance and Annual Investment Allowance) and availability of credit are all critical, but to protect jobs, drive productivity and encourage innovation it is not just about volume and investment, it is about sensible investment and supporting the supply chain.  Earlier engagement is key to this, for years we have banged on about pipeline, but the benefit of this never cascades into the supply chain enabling the myriad of SME’s, that actually do the work to plan workforces, raise credit and invest in innovation against a predictable order book.  The market is always driven by confidence and to protect jobs, encourage innovation and improve the skills and productivity of our workforce, we need any certainty to cascade rapidly through the supply chain.”