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Growth Budget takes step in right direction

24/03/2011
Growth Budget takes step in right direction

The house building industry has broadly welcomed the Chancellor's Budget to try to tackle the housing crisis.

But leaders have also warned that long-overdue measures to reform planning must be followed through.

George Osborne unveiled a widely trailed £250m package to help first time buyers get a foot on the housing ladder, planning reforms and 21 new enterprise zones.

Some 10,000 first-time buyers will be eligible for the Chancellor's new Firstbuy scheme, which is being funded from a £250m levy on banks.

Government plans provide 10% of the cost of a new house, matched by a further 10% from big house builders, as an equity loan.  This would be recouped when a property is sold.

The scheme, which is expected to run for just one year, will apply to newly-built flats and homes and should support up to 50,000 jobs in the house building industry.

The Chancellor also pledged to reform planning, switching to a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development', where the default answer is ‘yes'.

He added that the Government would deliver 50,000 apprenticeships and a fivefold increase in work experience numbers to 100,000.

Measures to tackle the problems of affordability for first time buyers of new homes go some way to chipping away at the block on house building.

But industry leaders warn that much more needs to be done if housing building is to return to anything like historic level let alone the 240,000 needed to meet housing need.

Mike Leonard, director of the Modern Masonry Alliance, said: "While we are grateful for any help we can get to revive the flagging housing market, the measures announced by Osborne today will only have a marginal effect on what is now becoming a very big problem.

"Building more new homes is vital to close the gap between supply and demand.

This will ensure we begin to reverse the decline in jobs in manufacturing and distribution of building materials as well as providing skilled employment on building sites.

He said: "We remain very concerned that the Government's recent changes to the planning process will frustrate the building of new homes and nothing we have heard today is likely to change this."

"The Chancellor's help for further apprenticeships is critical, but this must be matched by providing a much more substantial stimulus for the housing market. 

"We must create demand if there are to be opportunities for real jobs and long term sustainable economic growth," added Leonard.

Home Builders Federation executive chairman Stewart Baseley said: "We are pleased the Government is listening to industry concerns and has recognised the economic and social benefits of building more homes.

"With Firstbuy the Government has stepped up with a policy that will help first time buyers, boost economic growth and provide a vital shot in the arm for the house-building industry."

Osborne also unveiled 21 new enterprise zones in a Budget that aimed to strip away red tape.

He said the first 10 enterprise zones will be in Birmingham, Solihull, Leeds, Liverpool, Greater Manchester, Teesside, the Black Country, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Sheffield.

The Mayor of London will decide on the location of a designated enterprise zone in the capital later this year.

These zones will function as havens for development, benefiting from lower business rates and deregulated planning.

The Chancellor also committed to funding 21 new university technical colleges, double the number previously earmarked.

Budget in brief

Growth down from 2.1% to 1.7%

Corporation tax down 2% in April

Fuel duty down 1p/l tonight

Tax allowance rises £8,105 in 2012

Borrowing down £146bn to £29bn by 2015/16

50,000 more apprenticeships over 4 years

21 new enterprise zones

Extra £100m for councils to repair potholes

£250m for first time buyers

£100m for four new science centres

24 new university technical colleges