Homes wanted where infrastructure integrates

New report shows extent of public support for housing development that integrates necessary infrastructure.

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A majority of the population would support housing development in their local area if the necessary new infrastructure was integrated with it, research by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has shown.

The finding comes as part of a comprehensive assessment undertaken by ICE on the relationship between the UK’s housing and infrastructure networks.

In the Spending Review last week, Chancellor Sajid Javid announced more than £600m of new infrastructure spending – talking up an ‘infrastructure revolution’ over the next 12 months

The sum will be found through the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF).

ICE found that 60% of British adults would support the building of more housing in their local area if any necessary new infrastructure was built at the same time.

Enough, ICE says, for a reform of the way infrastructure and housing are delivered, ensuring a more strategic and aligned approach if the government is to deliver on its housebuilding programme.

As part of its annual State of the Nation report series, ICE highlights the interdependent relationship between housing and economic infrastructure – making recommendations to help bring these two important sectors closer together.

One way to do this, ICE suggests, is to create regional infrastructure strategies across England to better ensure effective integration of infrastructure and housing planning across boundaries and at local, regional, and national levels.

Among ideas pitched are:

  • Extending HIF in England beyond 2023–24 and move to a continuous programme of funding, with consideration for ring-fencing a specific amount of funding for areas of lower land value to ensure more strategic sites nationwide are unlocked for housing development
  • Continuing the Scottish Housing Infrastructure Fund, Rural Housing Fund, and Islands Housing Fund beyond 2021 in order to sustain the momentum generated by the More Homes Scotland programme
  • The Welsh government considering its own version of HIF to unlock strategic sites for development, drawing on the principles of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act

“As we collectively strive to ensure that there are enough houses in the UK to support the growing population, we can’t afford for swathes of new developments to be served by poor infrastructure connections and public services,” said ICE vice president Rachel Skinner FICE.

“It is essential for us to get this right through strategic and collaborative approaches, while also taking advantage of appropriate technological advances,” she said.

The report makes 10 recommendations in the areas of planning, funding, and financing, and futureproofing on the basis that the government should amend the Development Consent Order process to enable larger-scale housing developments to be built.

It also suggests that the next National Infrastructure Assessment should identify options for futureproofing new and existing housing stock to ensure suitability for the future.

In particular, it advises of the potential to consider how housing and infrastructure can be delivered to reach the net zero-carbon targets while taking full advantage of appropriate technological advancements.

The report’s findings and recommendations are based on discussions, conversations, and workshops with over 170 organisations and professionals from across the UK.

As well as civil engineers, the panel consulted with experts from the wider infrastructure sector, planning, and housebuilding communities.

“We need homes and places designed for our future, not our past,” said Sir John Armitt CBE FICE, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission.

“Too often, however, infrastructure and housing delivery aren’t properly aligned. ICE’s call for more integrated housing and infrastructure planning is a welcome contribution to this increasingly important discussion,” he said.

The report reflects the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) campaign for the planning profession to be empowered to take its role in bringing together infrastructure and housing development, through cross-boundary spatial strategies.

“Our recent research on the Location of Development found that over half of the houses permitted are not within easy walking or cycling distance of a railway, metro or underground station,” said RTPI chief executive Victoria Hills MRTPI FICE.

“We welcome the ICE report and further evidence that infrastructure should not be considered in isolation of other development, and also the recognition of the crucial role planners play.

“This is why we call on government and local authorities to better resource planning and put planning at the heart of local delivery for local people,” she said.

Other key recommendations in the report are:

  • Evolving the role of subnational transport bodies in England to incorporate other economic infrastructure and their interactions with housing to create subnational infrastructure bodies
  • Subnational infrastructure bodies should be tasked with creating integrated regional infrastructure strategies that include housing;
  • These should go beyond individual political cycles, both national and local, and be cross-sectoral and evidence-based;
  • Across England, these strategies should feed into the National Infrastructure Strategy to ensure effective integration of infrastructure and housing planning across boundaries and at local, regional, and national scales
  • Amending the charter of the National Infrastructure Commission to include housing alongside economic infrastructure, allowing more joined-up, long-term and evidence-based strategies on housing and infrastructure requirements
  • Amend the Development Consent Order process to enable large-scale housing developments of 5,000 or more homes to be delivered under it, ensuring greater coordination of housing delivery with nationally significant infrastructure, business, and commercial projects
  • Regulators should build greater flexibility into the utilities’ regulated asset base model, so that appropriate consideration can be given to providing infrastructure for permitted new housing developments outside of price control periods
  • A Strategic Infrastructure Tariff that allows councils to pool resources to fund specific strategic infrastructure must be carried through by the new administration
  • The next National Infrastructure Assessment should identify options for future-proofing new housing developments and strengthening existing communities, ensuring decisions are strongly linked to the transformation in transport, water, energy, and digital infrastructure that technology will enable and climate change will demand;
  • This should feed into developing and iterating the Future Homes Standard in England

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