RIBA president Jane Duncan has urged any new government to seek ‘the best deal from the Brexit negotiations’, provide business certainty, and ensure architects can still access top talent
Prime minister Theresa May surprised the nation yesterday morning (18 April) by announcing a snap general election on 8 June, saying it was the ‘only way to guarantee certainty and security’ as Brexit negotiations continued.
Reacting to the news, Duncan said: ’It will be important to hear that the next government will seek to obtain the best deal from the Brexit negotiations, providing business certainty in the short, medium and long term, opening new opportunities worldwide and ensuring that we can still access top talent through the continuation of a mutual recognition of professional qualifications and agreements with the EU.’
She added that, whatever the outcome, the RIBA is looking for a new government that ‘supports the work that our architects and the built environment sector can undertake to develop the integrated and vibrant communities that we want and need’.
In addition to the challenges posed by Brexit, Duncan said the profession needed to be ensured that ‘big domestic issues’, including better procurement rules and fixing the housing crisis, were not neglected.
‘We need innovative designs and smarter procurement approaches to solving the desperate housing crisis, renewing and expanding our schools and ensuring that we have a sustainable environment that works across the UK,’ she added.
’Investment in vital national infrastructure and successful devolution to regional and local communities is needed to support the creation of new jobs and the local improvements that they will create.’
For an election to be called before 2020, May needs a two-thirds majority in the House of Commons on the vote to be held later today (19 April).
At the last general election in 2015 some 35 per cent of the 200 architects, students and architectural technologists who completed an online poll said they planned to vote for the Labour Party.
Stephen Wilkinson, president of the Royal Town Planning Institute
Any new government will need to substantially invest in infrastructure and pursue an industrial strategy that is linked to an effective housing strategy and to empower devolved city regions to plan for growth in a meaningful way.
Planners are crucial to the economic development of all regions and nations of the UK to create places that are economically and socially successful, but we caution that any new Government should not hamper planners’ abilities to perform this crucial role in England by introducing further changes to the planning system.
We will continue to ask government to prioritise creating a more inclusive society, including addressing the housing crisis and the need to revise current land value capture mechanisms to benefit communities.
Lewis Johnston, parliamentary affairs manager at RICS
Since the EU referendum last summer, our market surveys across the residential, commercial and construction sectors show we have largely moved on from initial negative reactions but uncertainty continues to cloud the outlook and weigh on market sentiment. Yesterday’s decision does very little to change that prognosis in the near term and, if anything, we are likely to see continuing deferral of major investment and hiring plans.
In the immediate term the move creates further uncertainty across the built environment
While Theresa May’s stated intention this morning was to provide greater clarity and stability by calling a general election, in the immediate term the move inevitably puts a question mark over policy and creates further uncertainty across the built environment. It is now the responsibility of all parties to set out clear policy proposals across land, property, construction and infrastructure to ensure the UK can deliver the homes, infrastructure, factories, offices and major building projects it needs to thrive.
Melanie Leech, chief executive of British Property Federation
The prime minister’s decision to call a new general election creates some short-term uncertainty at a time when it’s critical to maintain business and investor confidence. It should, however, provide the next government with a clear mandate to negotiate our future relationship with the EU and deliver the UK’s long-term economic health. Real estate is a willing partner for government through this period as it delivers its industrial strategy and we have five key messages: work with us to maintain investor confidence in the UK and to drive growth; provide fair, competitive and stable tax, regulatory and planning systems; invest in infrastructure and free up public sector land; help us to address the skills shortage in our industry; and support more housing supply across all tenures.
Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive of UK Green Building Council
A general election will provide the opportunity to debate critical issues that affect people, places and the environment as the UK embarks on the process of leaving the European Union.
Our key concern is that this is likely to cause delays in a number of important policy areas
However, our key concern is that this is likely to cause delays in a number of important policy areas. We anticipate further delays to the Clean Growth Plan – which is of vital importance in detailing measures to meet the fifth carbon budget, bridging the policy gap identified by the Committee on Climate Change. Long-awaited amendments to Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards could also be pushed back, and we could see a delay to building regulations updates which were expected this summer. It remains to be seen how the Industrial Strategy will progress in the wake of this announcement – there is a real opportunity here to place the UK at the forefront of low-carbon technologies and sustainable practices and we cannot afford to be dragging our heels.
Brian Berry, chief executive of Federation of Master Builders
The prime minister is right to call an early general election if she wants a clear and decisive mandate to lead the Brexit negotiations. However, it’s important that the general election is more than just a vote on the UK’s approach to the Brexit negotiations. The next government will most likely be in power for four or five years, leading the UK through the Brexit process and out the other side. The construction industry will want to hear from the various parties about how they would overcome wider challenges, such as how they would increase house building and how they would ensure that we train more apprentices.
This general election is much more than a Brexit referendum
Although Brexit is an important part of the debate, this general election is much more than a Brexit referendum. In normal circumstances, the construction industry would have months, if not years, to feed in its views regarding what it wants from the next government. In this instance, will have very little time but that doesn’t mean that the conversation shouldn’t be had.
Mark Farmer, author of the government-commissioned Farmer Review of the UK’s skills shortage and CEO of Cast Consultancy
Whatever the outcome of this election, the construction skills gap will remain as will the impact of Brexit. In the campaign to come, I hope to see some serious solutions on offer as part of the main parties’ manifestos that adequately reflect the importance of the construction industry’s welfare and future modernisation as part of its contribution to UK plc. We need to also preferably see a reasonable level of cross-party consensus on a coherent and comprehensive skills and innovation agenda that is not interrupted by endless political turmoil.
Richard Garner, head of the commercial and capital markets agency at property consultancy Daniel Watney
A snap election creates the opportunity to remove the uncertainty we face in years of negotiations with the EU and the government’s narrow parliamentary majority. Any chance to provide greater certainty at a time when investors are uncertain of the consequences of Brexit can only be positive for the London office market.
Julia Evans, chief executive of BSRIA
The specific benefits for the construction industry remain to be seen, but it will allow the most wonderful platform for the prime minister to lay out her strategy to the electorate. It will be a strategy that will not be debated in parliament – as it properly should be – but it will be played out at the political hustings in the coming seven weeks.
Industry needs strong leadership to avoid a disruptive cliff-edge. Indeed, as we move forward, we must not lose sight of the fact that it is crucial that the construction industry’s voice is heard in the Brexit deliberations.