Today is World Town Planning Day, which highlights the importance of town planning in creating sustainable communities and places.

It broadly coincides with Philip Hammond's 2018 Budget, which has a strong focus on the development industry.

Many of the key headlines in this year's Budget had a broadly positive tone, and this was no different for the development industry, which, among other things, was promised increased investment to deliver sustainable housing and communities. Below, we highlight some of the key points for the industry to take away from the Budget:

  • The Government has confirmed that it still plans the biggest increase in housing supply since 1970.
  • An additional £500 million will be added to the Housing Infrastructure Fund to help build a further 650,000 new homes.
  • An additional £675 million is to be made available for a Future High Streets Fund to support councils in drawing up plans to transform their high streets and main retail zones.
  • The Government is proposing further extensions to permitted development rights to allow residential development above commercial premises.
  • The Transforming Cities Fund will be increased to £2.4 billion.
  • The establishment of a new initiative aimed at stimulating the SME house-building sector, including up to £1 billion of British business bank guarantees.
  • The creation of a £28.8 billion National Roads Fund, of which £25.3 billion will support the delivery of RIS2 (the second Roads Investment Strategy) through the Strategic Roads Fund.

On the same day the Budget was delivered, the Letwin Review (an independent report commissioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the build out rate of housing developments) was also published. This reinforced the Budget's emphasis on devolving decision making to local authorities.

Some of the Review's long-term recommendations include giving local authorities clear and enhanced powers to designate large sites for housing, create master plans, and compulsorily purchase land designed for such large sites. This recommendation, which aims to ensure that local authorities are able to achieve proactive development, has been welcomed by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

For some time the RTPI has voiced its concerns that housing delivery by the public sector has been predominantly limited to responding to proposals from the private sector. The Letwin Review recommendations may well change this, although it will require significant engagement on proactivity from the public sector which, to date, has not been consistently forthcoming.

Superficially, at least, this was a largely positive budget for the development industry, with the promise of substantial investment and opportunity. The promise of greater funding is, in many ways, a positive acknowledgement that ambitious local authorities and developers cannot always be expected to solve the problem of housing delivery alone.

However, the public sector must now step up to the plate if this Budget is really to herald a new era in relieving the chronic housing shortage and bolstering rates of delivery.

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