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New scheme to unblock housebuilding hold-ups

New Housing Estate

A new government backed pilot scheme has been launched to unblock infrastructure hold ups that are delaying the building of new homes.

The scheme has been set up by The Housing & Finance Institute (HFI), which earlier this year published a major report highlighting how failing water companies are severely infringing the ability of private developers to build more homes.

The pilot scheme is being carried out in the South-East with the help of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, the Home Builders Federation, Laing O’Rourke, Anglian Water, Kent County Council, Essex County Council, KeepMoat, the Chair of the APPG for Infrastructure and the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The government said that it would seek to identify, assess and then unblock infrastructure problems to speed up house building.

It said that the scheme would pay particular attention to housing developments that had been delayed due to a lack of water, sewage, electricity, gas or road connectivity. If successful, it said the plan was to roll out the scheme across the UK in 2017.

The Housing & Finance Institute chief executive Natalie Elphicke, who previously authored the Treasury-sponsored Elphicke-House housing report, said that the lack of local infrastructure on new housing sites was drastically slowing down the rate of new homes coming onto the market.

Elphicke said: “When we speak to housing developers, they often say it is water, electricity, gas, broadband and roads which are impeding their ability to build more homes faster.

“Water and sewage connectivity is a particular problem, with some water companies completely failing to deliver what housing developers require. This has been slowing down the rate of housing completions right across the country.

“Our hope is that this new pilot scheme, which brings together key players from the private and public sectors, will provide us with a blueprint for fixing these issues and facilitating accelerated housing growth.”

The scheme will run until May 2017, with its initial report due by the end of January 2017, and its findings will be reported to housing & planning minister Gavin Barwell and All Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure chair Stephen Hammond.

Barwell said: “This Government is committed to speeding up housing delivery and ensuring that everyone plays their part towards building the homes our country needs.

“I welcome this new pilot scheme and its focus on identifying ways of working together to overcome infrastructure barriers, and I look forward to seeing the initial report on its findings.” 

Currently, the government said that it could take a water company between six months and a year to connect a property but still meet its regulatory target. It said this was despite the fact that the water company would benefit from the revenues of the new connections for many years.

Research in the HFI’s summer report, ‘Let’s Build More Homes Faster’, revealed the scale of the failure currently being seen around the UK. Of the water connection performance, it said that only Dee Valley, which operates in Wales and Cheshire, secured 100% of connections.

The report said that the company that failed its performance targets most dramatically was Affinity Water which services critical growth areas in the South East as well as in London. In quarter one of 2015 it said it failed its performance target by nearly 60%. It said its average performance over the first three quarters of 2015 saw its performance fall by nearly 40%.

Significantly poor performances were also recorded for Thames Water, Southern Water and South Staffordshire, all of which saw 20% to 25% failure rates in at least one quarter of 2015.

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