David Cameron set out his proposals in his first Queen’s Speech under the new Conservative Government earlier today. Whilst there were no surprises, the following are the key points for the property industry to note:
- Devolution – Not only does the Government intend to devolve wide-ranging powers to Scotland and Wales, with English MP’s to be given more power over laws that affect England, but the Cities Devolution Bill will be introduced to allow cities to bid for an elected mayor, who will then be granted more power over planning, transport, policing and health. Generally welcomed, it is thought that devolution could offer a great opportunity for property led growth. Some critics, however, are suggesting that all areas should be devolved and not just those with a mayor. Furthermore, a number of commentators wish to remind the government that devolution is national, and not just Northern – it remains to be seen whether the Government will focus its attention across the country (or whether this is going to relate primarily to the North and the Government’s objective of creating a Northern Powerhouse.
- Housing – With the aim of giving people more opportunity to own their own homes and increasing the supply of housing, the government intends to increase the supply of new starter homes (which will be offered to young first time buyers at a 20% discount below their open market value), create a statutory register for brownfield land (in an effort to hit the target of getting 90% of suitable brownfield land ready for development by 2020) and introduce a programme to speed up neighbourhood planning system. These proposals are welcomed by the industry, but some commentators have already questioned whether they will be able to meet the demands, with suggestions that the focus should have been on the creation of new affordable homes, instead of enabling stock to be taken out of the system with the expansion of the Right to Buy. Other commentators worry that the policies will not be enough to deliver the sheer volume of new homes that are needed, with the British Property Federation tweeting that the “Government has huge task to deliver enough new homes and must focus on supply-side solutions”.
- Enterprise Bill – The Enterprise Bill should see the Government improving the business rates system ahead of the 2017 revaluation (including the modernisation of the appeals system and the ability for the Valuation Office Agency to share information with local government to improve the system for both local government and ratepayers). Another key focus of the Enterprise Bill is deregulation, where the Government has pledged to “cut red tape” to save businesses money.
- Brexit –The European Union (EU) Referendum Bill will enable the electorate to have an in-out vote on the UK’s membership of the EU before the end of 2017. There are concerns that the possibility of Britain exiting the EU could lead to a slow down in investment activity and, as such some commentators are calling for the government to clarify its plans (particularly as to timing) as soon as possible.
- Energy Bill – The Energy Bill will give the Oil and Gas Authority the powers it needs to become an independent regulator (to enable it to maximise the economic recovery of oil and gas from UK waters). It will also introduce legislation to transfer the power for making decisions in relation to onshore wind farms to local planning authorities. Furthermore, the Government is “committed to keeping the lights on and powering the UK economy” by investing in domestic oil and gas production and new energy infrastructure (such as nuclear and new renewables as well as exploring for gas) as well as reforming the electricity market in an effort to transition to a low carbon electricity system.
To see the transcript of the Queen’s speech, please click here.