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Autumn Statement 2014: the industry reacts

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The industry has reacted to George Osborne’s Autumn Statement

John Alker, director of policy and communications, UK Green Building Council
‘For years we’ve been told by Treasury that Stamp Duty cannot possibly be touched. But today’s changes blow a hole in that theory. This represents the mother of all missed opportunities, to link Stamp Duty payments to the energy performance of the property – incentivising householders to take action, and firmly establishing energy efficiency within the house buying and selling market.  

‘For many households the changes will offer a welcome upfront financial saving when buying a house – but it could so easily have also helped to tackle long-term household energy bills. Osborne could so easily have killed two birds with one stone.’

David Orr, chief executive, National Housing Federation
‘Prospective home buyers will be breathing a sigh of relief today following the reform of stamp duty, but the Chancellor’s announcement won’t help people trapped paying high rents and stranded on social housing waiting lists.

We need bold and urgent action to end the housing crisis

‘The announcements made earlier this week to boost house building are a step in the right direction, but we now need bold and urgent action to end the housing crisis within a generation.’

Liz Peace, chief executive, British Property Federation
‘For the sake of business competiveness and Government efficiency the business rates system needs to change. We need a system that is more responsive, both to changes in the economy and to the relative position different businesses find themselves in.

‘Basing a property tax on nine-year-old valuations is simply unfair and inefficient, and other countries have shown that with the use of technology you can design a far more responsive system. The compounding effect of annual RPI increases is also meaning that a higher proportion of taxation each year is coming from business rates, sucking the blood from our high streets and eroding many other businesses’ competitive edge.

‘Undertaking a root and branch review of the system is a big decision which many politicians have shied away from, and it makes today’s announcement particularly welcome. We hope it is no-holds-barred and will deliver something fit for the 21st century, and one that benefits all sectors of the economy. We look forward to making a positive contribution on that basis.’

Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy, RICS
‘Finally we see long overdue reform to the stamp duty tax system – described by the Chancellor as the most damaging tax of all. Time and time again RICS has called for these changes to stamp duty structure, which now mean 98 per cent of house buyers will benefit.

‘These changes reduce distortion and ensure those at the top end of the market contribute fairly, while those at the bottom will be given a fairer chance to get on the ladder, cutting out ‘dead zones’ in the market.

‘We fully support the extension of small business rate relief, however, greater consideration must be given in the context of devolution across the UK with a focus on local decision making to encourage local economic growth. 

‘The most recent RICS Commercial Market Survey highlights that throughout the UK the availability of office space has declined for the sixth consecutive quarter and is doing so at its fastest pace since the late 1990s; therefore, the announcement of the business rate review is a welcome signal to the market, laying out certainty en route to revaluation in 2016. The review must create a simpler, quicker a more fit for purpose business rate system, that makes true impact on the high street, encouraging business growth.’

Allen Wilen, economics director, Glenigan
‘Stamp duty reform formed the centre piece of the Chancellor’s 2014 Autumn Statement. The change will remove long standing pricing distortions in the market caused by the tax and offers a welcome reduction in upfront costs for almost all house purchasers.

The Stamp Duty reforms should help re-invigorate housing market activity

‘In particular the reforms will narrow the deposit gap faced by first time buyers and should help re-invigorate housing market activity that has been cooling in recent months. The Chancellor’s move, combined with the prospect of real rises in household incomes, should help to sustain the recent growth in new private housing activity during 2015.

‘Prime residential housing is the one loser from the Chancellor’s announcement, which will add to the squeeze on high end property prices in central London that have already been impacted by Labour’s ‘mansion tax’ plans.’

James Rayner, director, Broadway Malyan
‘Of the major housing projects and overall housing numbers that the Chancellor refers to, Barking Riverside, Ebbsfleet Garden City, Bicester and Northstowe have all been in the pipeline for a number of years. 

‘They aren’t new sites, but instead sites that have stalled as a result of landowner issues, inadequate existing transport infrastructure or a lack of funding for proposed transport schemes. 

It doesn’t solve the need to find a strategic approach to tackle housing

‘While unlocking these sites helps, it doesn’t solve the need to find a strategic approach to tackle housing need.

‘The numbers mentioned, while notable, will not change the long-term demand for housing and we still need strategic and linked up measures to create more and better liveable places – now and for future generations.

‘Speeding up planning decisions and process is a worthy approach, but it doesn’t replace the need for joined up and strategic planning measures and thinking.

‘A comprehensive look must be taken at regional supply and a visionary approach pursued to create better cities and communities.’

Peter Tooher, director of planning and regeneration, Nexus Planning
‘It is great to see the Chancellor once again putting Manchester at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse with a commitment to significant investment in science, the arts and infrastructure, and the creation of new investment vehicles. The pressure is now on the Greater Manchester authorities, with the development industry, to deliver a step change in the choice of new housing so that our new scientists, theatre impresarios and  engineers, heralded in the Statement, have a wider choice of high quality housing in vibrant city neighbourhoods. If new homes are built in the Greater Manchester that will hopefully keep more of them here, rather than losing them to the daily commute from Cheshire and elsewhere.’

Marnix Elsenaar, partner, Addleshaw Goddard
‘Garden cities are fine in principle but we shouldn’t forget Gordon Brown’s eco-towns which are now nowhere to be seen. What’s crucial is considering what makes a place: jobs, social infrastructure and connectivity. A growing focus on urban living means we should prioritise satellite towns around London and Manchester which have good connections to jobs and where land exists to develop. Speeding up planning, investing in transport and potentially building homes with public money all make sense.’

Mark Naysmith, UK managing director, WSP
‘The UK has great ideas and plans for improving our infrastructure, but we are lacking a critical path to delivery. Implementation needs to be our primary focus now, including measures to tackle some of our key challenges such as skills and efficiency in public procurement.

We are lacking a critical path to delivery

‘The nature and scale of infrastructure projects mean they extend beyond the political lifecycle, so cross-party support remains key. We know world-class infrastructure is critical to our long-term recovery - we have already seen the benefits particularly in attracting global investment - and it would be a pity to lose the momentum gained over the last few years due to political posturing.’

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