Lord Heseltine backs South East Growth Deal

REVEALING details of ambitious housing plans, the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SE LEP) presented a new report with national think-tank Localis to highlight barriers and solutions to housing development in the South East.

The new report, ‘Building the Future’, launched in Ebbsfleet yesterday (10th July 2014) calls on business and Councils to deploy the size and scale of the South East area to deliver ambitious levels of housing growth. It lays the foundation for a new relationship between public and private investment and delivery – to realise a much more flexible and responsive way to develop the homes, and related skills and jobs we so urgently need in the South East.

Backing the LEP’s Growth Deal, Lord Heseltine emphasised the need for a holistic approach to development, which provides communities where people want to live and also gives them good access to employment and education.

Lord Heseltine commented on how the Growth Deals will help accelerate much needed housing development saying:

“Government has taken the first step with the Growth Deals, what follows next is exciting. This is not a one off initiative but a rolling programme of investment over several years to give certainty to the investing world so development can be identified, planned and this galvanises the commitment of the private sector, for them to get behind and invest.”

Lord Heseltine encouraged the South East and other LEPs to:

“Think coherently, have a vision, take the lead and take the chance to argue for change with Government where you believe it be right”

Peter Jones, Chair of SELEP, commented:

“Housing should be seen as critical infrastructure in its own right. We have evidence from business and inward investors, prevented from looking at potential sites to locate because of a lack of suitable housing for their future workforce.

We must attract still further private and public investment, something we aim to accelerate through the development a LEP wide infrastructure and property fund, SE FUND”

“We must find ways of increasing the attractiveness of areas of growth and build communities with a sense of place of belonging, not simply dormitory estates. The return we will get on our investment will be even greater as a result.”

The event, facilitated by Localis, provided an opportunity for stakeholders to consider the wider national context of the national housing ‘crisis’ and to look locally at how the South East LEP can lead the way in developing and delivering innovative ideas to tackle the shortfall of homes faced in the South East.

Particular areas of challenge have been identified, including:

§ insufficient land allocations;
§ bringing forward land in public ownership;
§ building capacity in the development industry; and
§ overcoming utility and public service companies continually impeding development.

The South East LEP has made housing an overwhelming priority in its recent Growth Deal with Government, announced on Monday 7th July 2014, which will bring investment of £442 million and will develop major transport corridors and connect new development sites to road and rail infrastructure.

The Growth deal also brings the LEP new influence over national programmes to support housing development in a range of ways and a role for LEPs to play in ensuring Local Authorities effectively plan for new, future housing growth. The provision of housing in the South East is one of the biggest economic barriers locally, and new investment and flexibility is fundamental to overcoming these.

A number of immediate priorities for SE LEP were identified to advance our recommendations. These included:

Promoting quality in design and development
Working with institutional investors to build SEFUND, the LEP’s proposed property and infrastructure investment fund
Working up proposals for “tipping point” finance to accelerate development
Assessing Councils’ Debt Cap capacity
Tackling the utilities where they inhibit development
Promoting new housing for older people
Using our planning influence
“Re-imagining” our relationship with the Homes & Communities Agency
Working for greater flexibility with the HCA as a regulator
Addressing the particular issues in our coastal towns
Recognising the need for affordability and new housing tenures

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