Housing minister needs to get to know the industry

Posted On: 
17th October 2019

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the National Federation of Builders, comments on Esther McVey's plans to send teams of planning specialists across the country.

The Times has written that the minister of state for housing and planning, Esther McVey, will unveil plans to send teams of planning specialists across the country to help councils struggling to get regeneration and housing schemes approved.

McVey said, “It doesn’t matter if it’s boosting capacity or plugging gaps in labour and expertise, if you have a problem, maybe you can hire, the planning A-team.”

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the National Federation of Builders (NFB), said: “A ‘planning A team’ supporting councils may be one way to support the underfunding of planning departments but a far more appropriate solution would be to reform the planning process so that builders can actually put shovels in the ground. Companies are going out of business because of systemic issues in planning and our members are telling us all the time how bad the situation is. This is no time for a quick fix.”

AT MIPIM UK, the housing minister also called on the UK to be a world leader in modular homes and said, “Technology now means building offsite gives you the precision-manufactured homes, tested for quality and safety.” She added: “This could now be as effective as a house built through traditional methods.”

The House Builders Association (HBA), the housebuilding division of the NFB, is concerned that the minister is ignoring the reality of high quality development and the skills crisis. Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing and planning policy at the HBA, said: “Small and medium sized businesses train four in five construction apprentices and are our predominant rural employers. They also build the best homes by mixing traditional and MMC techniques.

“Like the A-team, the housing minister’s plans are far-fetched fiction. She must focus on MMC, as well as offsite and modular. Modular and offsite have lifespan, fire safety and maintenance concerns to resolve, whereas MMC allows the entire industry to be part of change. Her legacy needs to be fixing the housing crisis, not creating an economic disaster where 99% of the industry is left behind.”