Autumn Statement: Planning for Productivity
'Productivity' was the key word for Chancellor Phillip Hammond whose Autumn Statement announced a new National Productivity Investment Fund worth £23 billion up to 2021.
The tantalising aspect for planning professionals is that infrastructure is one of two key areas for the Fund, identified alongside 'innovation' as an essential area for investment.
Infrastructure as key housing delivery mechanism remains a central theme. Planners and developers will endorse Mr Hammond's observation that "one of the biggest objections to housing development is often the impact on local infrastructure". This is why the Chancellor announced a £2.3 billion housing infrastructure fund to facilitate up to 100,000 new homes, to "provide infrastructure targeted at unlocking new private house building" in the areas of most need.
The Government also committed to spend £1.4bn to support 40,000 additional affordable homes. No mention of starter homes, although the Chancellor pledged to relax regulation to encourage delivery of a wider range of [affordable] housing types.
The Government committed to invest £1.1 billion in improving English local transport networks, with a particular aim to alleviate local congestion. A further £220 million will be used to tackle pinch points in the road system.
The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has been asked to make recommendations on the assumption that the Government will invest 1-1.2% of GDP on infrastructure from 2017/18 to 2021. This appears to endorse the NIC's mid- to long-term future. Deputy-Chair of the NIC, Sir John Armitt, described it as "a crucial step in the formation of the NIC. Providing a clear remit and a long-term funding guideline for British infrastructure will help this country plan for the long term and deliver the systems and networks we need to compete".
This continues to see the Government look to the NIC having endorsed its report, a week ago, on the Oxford – Cambridge growth corridor committing to an expressway and further investment in east-west rail suggesting the corridor could be "Britain’s [next] Silicon Valley".
Smaller scale projects may also benefit from the assignment of £1.8 billion from the Local Growth Fund to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). Previously, funds have been allocated to LEPs by central government on a project-by-project basis. This represents a further example of a continued commitment to devolution.