New housebuilding has risen from the lows of the Great recession but is still running well below the levels the housebuilding industry thinks is necessary, and below the levels of new household formation. Part of this is related to the immigration issues which we have often debated on this site. Today I wish to look at other matters.
If the country chooses a Conservative government next May and if that government succeeds in getting a new deal to control migration from the EU, there will still be a need to build new homes for people already settled here and for the newcomers we still invite in from all round the world. No-one in the policy and political world is proposing an end to all migration. The UK is an attractive place and there will be some further expansion of numbers.
This government has promoted more homeownership and more housebuilding through a variety of means. Mending the banks, setting out the Right to buy scheme, and creating a background of more jobs and growth have all contributed to the increase in new homes. More land has been made available for development.
There are still predictable tensions between housebuilders and settled communities accepting new development. In an area like Wokingham we have accepted substantial new building over the years. Some of this has been properly planned by the local Council with supporting roads, schools and other facilities. Some was pressed upon us by Planning Inspectors under the previous government’s top down regime. The danger of this could be seen in aggravated flooding problems, road congestion and the need to expand school and medical provision without the local community always generating the capital receipts from the development to cover these associated costs.
Future development needs to be at a sustainable level with care taken to ensure that substantial new development sites are properly prepared with good road access, public service provision and above all with proper methods of dealing with faster run off of the surface water and with the waste water that buildings generate. Councils and the Highways Agency also need to use the opportunity afforded by new development to update and upgrade the road network which is becoming increasingly congested.