Issue date: 26 February 2013
The impact of house-building and planning on economic growth will come under the spotlight as politicians, including Planning Minister Nick Boles MP and Bristol Mayor George Ferguson, along with other expert speakers, debate the topic at a conference at UWE Bristol.
Organised by the South West Observatory, the event will look at the links between local planning policies, house-building, house prices and affordability and the impact of these on local economic growth. With the government keen to do everything it can to stimulate the economy, it has seen boosting housing growth as a key measure. But while it has set out to simplify planning regulations and stimulate lending to first time buyers, others have seen the new 'localism' agenda as allowing local residents to resist calls for new development. A range of speakers from the public and private sectors will look at squaring this circle.
For Professor Martin Boddy, Observatory Chair and Pro Vice-Chancellor at UWE, these are major challenges, “Bristol is exactly the sort of place that the government is expecting to lead the country out of recession. But it also has major problems of housing affordability. If it is to attract the investment and skilled labour needed to realize its potential then alongside that we need investment in high quality homes and neighbourhoods which will ensure jobs and housing for future generations.”
In January, the government proposed new measures offering cash incentives to communities to accept new housing developments. This came amid a raft of recent measures proposed to encourage housing and home ownership.
Commenting ahead of the event, Planning Minister Nick Boles MP said, “This government is determined to persuade communities to accept more house-building by giving them a tangible share of the benefits it brings. By undertaking a neighbourhood plan that makes space for new development, communities can secure revenues to make the community more attractive for everyone.”
Last year's autumn statement proposed more powers to new Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) to determine local priorities for housing locally. The event will hear about the West of England LEP's strategy for delivery as well as from George Ferguson, the first elected mayor of Bristol, himself an architect with hands-on experience of developing the Old Tobacco Factory, that led the economic regeneration of an area.
Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson said, “There is a pressing need in Bristol for a wide range of homes, in particular affordable homes where we urgently need a step change in the amount we are building. I am working closely with my housing officers, housing associations, developers and all others in the sector to kick-start dormant sites where there are existing planning approvals or to encourage new plans to come forward.
"I was very pleased that Bristol recently secured one of the biggest single investments so far from the 'Get Britain Building' programme with a £12 million investment for Wapping Wharf. I am doing all I can to secure more of this and other funding for the city."