Measures were unveiled by the Chancellor in the Spring Statement which will be of interest to those in the development industry, particularly the announcement that the forthcoming Environment Bill will make it mandatory for new developments in England to generate a biodiversity net-gain.

The Chancellor delivered his Spring Statement on 13 March alongside publication of a Written Ministerial Statement, which provides further detail on the announcements, and a joint declaration between government and local partners on the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.

There were no major surprises for the development industry, but the key measures announced which will be of interest to those in this sector are summarised in this blog.

Clean Growth/Environment

Building on the government’s commitment to promote ‘clean growth’, measures were announced which include:

  • using the forthcoming Environment Bill to require new developments in England to generate biodiversity net gains to increase biodiversity and ensure that wildlife isn’t compromised in delivering infrastructure and housing. The development industry will be interested to know what increased burden this mandatory requirement will place on developments, particularly those being brought forward in a dense urban environment, when this legislation is published in draft in due course;
  • the launch of a review into the Economics of Biodiversity on a global, national and local level to assess its economic value and the financial risks of its decline. The review will identify the most cost-effective actions and environmentally sustainable interventions that will protect nature and deliver economic growth;
  • introduction of a new Future Homes Standard by 2025, mandating the end of fossil-fuel heating systems in all new houses from 2025; and
  • the proportion of ‘green’ gas in the grid will be increased to reduce dependence on burning natural gas in homes and businesses and to help meet climate targets.

Housing and Infrastructure

Alongside funding commitments to unlock homes at sites including Old Oak Common in London, the Oxford – Cambridge Arc and in Cheshire, and to support the delivery of affordable homes by housing associations nationally, the Chancellor reiterated the government’s commitment to publish a National Infrastructure Strategy (which will be the first of its kind) which will set out the infrastructure priorities and respond to recommendations in the National Infrastructure Commission’s National Infrastructure Assessment.

In the coming months the government also intends to:

  • introduce new planning guidance to support housing diversification on large sites in response to the publication last year of the Letwin review, which concluded that greater differentiation in the types and tenures of housing on large sites would increase build out rates;
  • introduce a package of planning reforms to allow greater changes of use between premises, and a new permitted development right to allow upwards extension of existing buildings to create new homes; and
  • publish a Green Paper with proposals on how greater capacity and capability, performance management and procedural improvements can accelerate the end-to-end planning process.

High Streets

A consultation on potential changes to help local areas make better use of planning tools to support high streets, including through Compulsory Purchase Orders, Local Development Orders, and other planning measures was also announced.

Future of Mobility

In response to the changes in transport technology (for example the growth in electric vehicles, self-driving vehicles and advances in data and internet connectivity) an Urban Strategy will be published setting out the government’s approach to mobility.

We will blog on the further details of these measures and their implications when they come forward, so watch this space!