Christmas election: new start for a new year?

11 Nov 2019

Policy area: BPF

This column originally appeared in Estates Gazette.  

After months of political uncertainty and infighting, the starting gun has been fired on the first December election since 1923.

Resolving the seemingly never-ending saga of Brexit and finalising a good deal with the EU is a necessary first step for a new government, and prospective parliamentary candidates will need to convince a jaded electorate that this is something they and their party can deliver. 

But then the real work starts: to build a future relationship with our biggest trading partner based on regulatory alignment, frictionless trade and the UK’s all-important services sector.

There is also a huge domestic agenda including housing, regeneration and infrastructure that will help shape post-Brexit Britain. The built environment is fundamental to tackling these issues in a sustainable way, and a formal partnership between government and our industry to maximise this impact is long overdue. The BPF’s members are committed to such a partnership, and to working with policymakers to secure positive long-term outcomes for the UK’s diverse communities.

Decarbonising the built environment

Attention is focused on the immediate need to address climate change throughout the property industry. While the battle for hearts and minds is being won and many of the BPF’s members are setting ambitious programmes of action, there is much more government can do to drive behaviours and support the transformation needed at the pace required. A clear road map must be set out to take us to the world-leading commitment of net-zero carbon by 2050 – or sooner.

If the UK economy is to become more productive and development potential is to be unlocked, the next government must also implement an ambitious programme of infrastructure investment. Enhancing digital and transport infrastructure will be particularly key to maximising the potential of harder to reach areas.

In housing, we have long supported measures to increase delivery, such as the new housing delivery test and the standardised methodology for assessing housing need. However, there is plenty of room for more ambition for housing numbers, particularly in the Midlands and the North where the current strategy fails to consider these areas’ economic aspirations.

Government must also continue to encourage new investment into the build-to-rent sector. Our latest figures show that the number of build-to-rent homes grew by 20% over the past year, demonstrating build-to-rent’s important contribution to housing targets.

Community leadership

Resilient communities rely on strong local leadership and confident local stewardship. However, over the past decade local authorities have suffered significant cuts, impacting the vital services they provide. Planning has seen the steepest cuts of any service. At the same time, our communities face huge challenges, from regeneration to housing to social care. If we are to meet these head-on, we need well resourced local authorities with the capacity to think and act strategically.

Local partnerships will be fundamental to delivering a better future for our communities. The recent BPF Futures Challenge to reimagine the high street highlighted the wealth of talent in public and private sectors that can be used to create meaningful cooperation between multiple stakeholders, and we will need all of their creativity if we are to regenerate town and city centres across the country in a way that delivers inclusive growth and prosperity.

The property industry stands ready to work with the next government to create the conditions to allow the country and UK businesses to flourish, and the property industry to thrive.

Our sector is a key enabler of productivity and wealth, and through the BPF’s Redefining Real Estate campaign we are committed to doing more to create positive outcomes for communities across the UK. Together we can help to build a prosperous and sustainable future for all.