The profession has applauded the arrival of former construction minister Mark Prisk as the new housing minister but has called for faster measures to stimulate housing demand
A Fellow of the Royal Institution of Charted Surveyors, the 50-year-old replaces the newly promoted Grant Shapps following yesterday’s cabinet reshuffle.
Andrew Matthews of Proctor and Matthews
It’s good to see the appointment of a minister with hands on experience of the industry. There is no doubt that housing is in need of a significant boost if we are going to close the needs gap at all in this parliament. That said the emphasize on planning seems to be a red herring. Our general experience with planning is that authorities will support good quality sustainable design and move schemes quickly through the process. The only bar to this is a lack of planners and design advisors.
The real problem is the ability of purchasers to obtain finance. Housing developers have quite a lot of land with planning permission, but they won’t build if they know their customers can’t get mortgage finance. Osborne could help the new Housing Minister improve delivery by concentrating further on this issue rather than planning.
Roger Hawkins of Hawkins\Brown
Mark Prisk comes from a business background so this should bring some fresh perspective into the role. He is the MP for Bishops Stortford, where we are working on the co-location of two schools. The redundant school sites are in for planning as housing - backed by Countryside Properties. It will be interesting to get Prisk’s support for this project in support of the Tory County Council.
Dominic J Eaton of Stride Treglown
The introduction of a professional with commercial property experience and with previous ministerial responsibility for construction is a welcome sign at a time when development finance and the phased introduction of the Community Infrastructure Levy is changing the way housing schemes are considered and brought forward.
It will however be a combination of relaxation in borrowing, a more positive attitude to both plan making and determinations in accordance with sustainable development principles, and additional resources directed to the Planning Departments across the land that will ultimately deliver the right form of housing in the right locations at the right time.
If Prisk can communicate the importance of removing cross-local authority boundary disputes to housing provision – which have hindered urban expansions and planned growth in many areas - he would be applauded. The opportunity is there to make his mark to accelerate house building and housing regeneration as one of the main stimulus to economic growth. He will however need to work with others in Government to achieve sustained and effective change. A true cross-departmental approach is required.
Prisk will be acutely aware that the socio-demographic profile of the UK is rapidly changing – people are living longer and this changes their need for accommodation over time. Freeing up existing housing stock by promoting well designed, adaptable housing with access to amenities and with a high environmental performance could be one way of tackling an important element of future housing delivery, whilst making continual improvements to housing design.
The challenge remains to design and deliver affordable housing to meet ever increasingly stringent Code for Sustainable Homes ratings over the next 10 years. It will be interesting to see how he balances the need to deliver housing with environmental and green belt protection.
Peter Caplehorn, technical director at Scott Brownrigg
Mark knows his way around this sector, which is excellent news. His challenge is to get on top of - building more houses at all levels of the market, and ensuring carbon quality and compliance are top of the agenda.
Piers Taylor, The Invisible Studio
Undoubtedly the planning process is the key hindrance on creating good affordable new housing - the procedure is far too focussed on ‘design’ and needs to refocus on using the process to get the basic infrastructure and zoning right, and leave everything else (design) up for grabs and not part of the process - but down to individuals to determine in an eclectic and ad hoc way. Focus on design guides has meant vast swathes of ubiquitous noddy developer built housing that supposedly reflects local character. Ideally also self building should be encouraged - with local character should be able to be expressed individually by each self builder
Alan Milstein, chair of the Residential Property Surveyors Association
We’d like to take this opportunity to welcome Prisk into his new role. A big focus for our organisation, which lobbies for higher residential surveying standards nationally, is to ensure that consumers are better informed about the survey options available to them when purchasing a new home. Too many home buyers are mistakenly led to believe that their lender’s valuation is a thorough survey on their future home. As a result, they make their buying decision without access to detailed information about the condition of the property they are about to buy.
As a chartered surveyor himself, Prisk should be well aware of how buyers are being disadvantaged in this way. As he settles into his new role, we hope to work with the Minister to ensure future home buyers are better informed when making their next property purchase.
Scape chief executive Mark Robinson said: ‘[Prisk] previously held the construction portfolio for government, so he is in a strong position to move across to housing. We believe he has a very clear grasp of the challenges the sector faces, and anticipate that he will bring a new impetus to the role.
‘It is imperative that some of the immense problems this country is facing in terms of a lack of suitable and affordable housing stock are tackled quickly and decisively. We are very keen to work more closely with government to develop long term strategies that will reform and revitalise the sector. And we hope Mark will recognise the importance of raising the profile of housing to rebalance investment in the sector which has, in the past, fallen well short of the funding levels that health and education have enjoyed.’