In my final column of 2013 I forecast that 2014 would one of potential and of substantial change. With time to ponder further over the past two weeks, I think the key word for the year will be “delivery”.
With effective delivery we should see the increase in demand to help fuel our economic activity and growth in the region. A good example of this in the government’s Help to Buy scheme which has ignited demand in the housing market but here the biggest constraint we face is the supply of land on which to build.
While London has seen double figure house price inflation, predictions for price growth in the North East range from 5 to 8% in 2014. What we need for a region that has a low performing economy is a stable market with longer-term growth potential that can endure for the future and from which all can benefit. But land is a problem and we need to quickly inject more into the market.
The North East has a substantial supply of brownfield land but, as I have said previously, such sites are slow and expensive to prepare and generally not in the areas where the house buyer wishes to live. These factors can be changed but it takes time to achieve. It is an aspiration that needs to have a dynamic focus and delivery achieved.
In the meantime, there are three things that can be done in a comprehensive plan for delivery to work toward our aspirations of using brownfield land first and before green field land.
Much land is owned by the public sector. Procurement is an horrendous bidding process through the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU). It adds cost, limits competition and is time consuming. So we need to simplify the process to make it more effective.
This dealing of brownfield land is desirable but will in the main be infill development and will not deliver the scale of housing that is needed. This scale should be focussed in new towns or garden cities that will create beneficial environments and make future generations proud.
The government has through the National Infrastructure Plan proposed a statutory requirement for councils to put a local plan in place. With a few exceptions, our planning authorities are well off the pace in achieving this in the time scale necessary. It would clearly improve things for the private sector if they had the certainty of local plans to work to.
In addition, we are all looking forward to the publications of the region’s Strategic Economic Plan being prepared by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and the Combined Authority. This will confirm the delivery of infrastructure that is needed to create the connectivity on which large housing schemes depend.
The third point is to “create a sense of place” that is a qualitative provision of architectural design, energy and other sustainable objectives that help people to live comfortably in a strong community. This has been achieved at Saltaire, West Yorkshire, Bournville, West Midlands and Welwyn Garden City – leadership is essential to achieve this.
As a region we need energy and passion to achieve a successful housing delivery of the right calibre and quality.
:: Kevan Carrick is a partner at JK Property Consultants LLP, policy spokesman for RICS North East, a mediator, a member of the RICS Dispute Resolution Panel and chairman of Northern Dispute Resolution