In its fifth National Infrastructure Plan (NIP), the Government has unequivocally confirmed the link between long-term infrastructure investment and housing delivery.
One of its more radical proposals is the release of unused public sector land to provide capacity for up to 150,000 homes between 2015 and 2020. At a local level, the Government has promised substantial investment in Oxfordshire in three key areas:
Planners have long understood that infrastructure is vital to unlocking large-scale housing development and the Government has at last given official recognition to the principle in its latest NIP, in which it finally classifies housing as ‘infrastructure’.
In a programme that promises to give people what they want - more homes and less time travelling to and from work - the Government has allocated £15 billion to the Roads Investment Strategy. This includes £50m to improve two of the most congested roads in Oxford city, the A34 Pear Tree interchange and the Botley Road.
It has also committed £100m of public spending and loans to support the building of 13,000 new homes in Bicester, which has been named as the Government’s second ‘garden city’. The first is Ebbsfleet which is also set to receive £100m funding towards infrastructure and land remediation to support its 15,000 new homes.
One of the NIP’s more radical proposals is for the Government to directly commission, build and even sell homes on unused public land. It will start with a pilot scheme at a former RAF base in Northstowe, near Cambridge, that is intended to deliver 10,000 homes “twice as fast as conventional approaches”.
The NIP also promises £2.3 billion over the next six years for national flood defences to provide better protection for over 300,000 existing homes, including £42m for a flood relief channel in Oxford.
One of the many obstacles to housebuilding in the UK is the threat posed by new housing developments to existing homes in terms of increased flooding risk at a time when householders already have plenty of other reasons to be concerned about flooding. For more information and advice on flooding, please click here.
While there is nothing startlingly new in the NIP, it does includedetailed delivery plans on major projects to 2020, with published start and completion dates.
But ambitious plans require adequate funding. Given the Government’s continuing austerity measures, the majority of the investment will need to come from the private sector. Some commentators believe that real estate investors may move towards infrastructure investment but the impending General Election provides an uncertain backdrop which is likely to undermine investor confidence in the short-term.