Cutting the red tape

As part of the ‘Cutting Red Tape’ series of sector reviews, the Government is giving housebuilders their say on what works and what doesn’t in the housing sector.  The Cabinet Office and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) are responsible for leading the Cutting Red Tape review as part of a £10 billion deregulation drive. The Chancellor announced the review programme in the 2015 Productivity Plan, and later launched it on 2 December 2015. The results from this first review, and those of five reviews into other sectors (including Agriculture, Mineral Extraction, Care, Waste and Energy), will be published later in 2016.

So, what is the purpose of such a review? The aim of the building review is to give housebuilders a platform to air their views on potentially restrictive, ineffective rules and heavy-handed legislation that prevents them from building new homes. The review will look at the way the law is enforced, as well as whether the rules themselves are proportionate and fit for purpose.

 Looking at the bigger picture

The wide-ranging review captures the experiences of all those involved in home-building, including developers, planners and trade associations, aiming to remove any unnecessary barriers in the building process.  There’s special interest in the views of smaller firms, seeking to understand the unique pressures being faced in the current economic market, including aspects such as where the rules are too complicated, of negligible impact or poorly reinforced. John Allan, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The Government is right to listen to the needs of smaller businesses. In the 1980s, smaller house builders delivered around two thirds of our new homes. Today, it is less than a third. If the Government can encourage small firms back into house building, that would be a major step towards meeting this country’s housing needs.”

Using the work of the Housing Implementation Task Force as groundwork, the review will uncover the issues that have the biggest effect on housebuilders.  It will then examine any aspects of regulation – or the way it is implemented – which could be made simpler, more cost-effective, less wasteful and more consistent. The results will clarify where house-building legislation is hampering new developments, giving the construction industry the impetus and foundations to get Britain back to building homes on the scale required.

Time for reform

The earlier Housing and Construction Red Tape Challenge delivered significant reforms and led to a review of local housing standards by the DCLG. The key starting points for the current review are based on priorities raised by the Task Force. These are roads and infrastructure rules for new housing developments, environmental requirements (particularly EU rules such as the Habitats Directive and wider EU environmental permit requirements) and the rules that affect utilities, such as electricity, gas and water – as well as the wider broadband infrastructure. The Government is now also keen to look at the changes made to the Construction, Design and Management Regulations, as well as any examples of European Union rules that are being implemented too strictly. Further aspects to be highlighted may be over-elaborate planning permission procedures and the ready availability of land for new-build.

The evidence-gathering phase ran for eight weeks with submissions closing on 13 January 2016. The results will no doubt make interesting reading for everyone involved in the building industry. The biggest hope is that they really do cut the red tape, and revolutionise the way we build and deliver real change to the building sector. iApply is looking forward to reviewing the findings when the results are published later this year, and will keep you posted on how it impacts the industry.

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