UK housing forum exposes water, waste, quarry issues; Govt 3m goal “unlikely”

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housing_slump The recession gripping UK housing is compounded by huge challenges facing the water, waste and quarry industries, all related to the Government’s goal to build three million homes by 2020, a target which industry experts called “extremely unlikely” at a London conference last week.

“Delivering Housing Growth: Overcoming Opposition” gathered stakeholders on 8th July from many industries and interests related to home construction. The Saint Report is publishing presentations, below, and a synopsis (Download Report.pdf) of the key points to help illustrate a compelling need for housing with enlightened, joined up planning by Government, local planning authorities and industry.

Nick Keable, managing director UK of The Saint Consulting Group, summarised public opposition to development with findings from the Saint UK Index, which makes gloomy reading for several key planks in the Government’s housing programme:

  • 70 percent of Britons say the three million target is unfeasible
  • UK is more NIMBY than ever
  • Over the past three years public confidence in planning officials has worsened
  • One in four Brits has actively opposed a local development project

Continue reading for full presentations.

More specific hard truths came in presentations from:

One Comment on “UK housing forum exposes water, waste, quarry issues; Govt 3m goal “unlikely””

  1. This conference provided some sobering insights on the public opposition facing Government, local authorities and residential developers.

    Plummeting house values, shrinking mortgage funds and cash-strapped residential developers are in the grip of a UK housing freefall, just at a time when the Government is campaigning to build three million homes by 2020, at the rate of 250,000 units a year.

    In addition to the Saint Index findings, a dozen experts speaking from the home-building, water, waste and quarry industries addressed key fears and hopes for meeting the Government’s ambitious home-building goals.

    While attendance was low during a week when the National Planning Convention was also in London, the quality of questions and audience participation was robust and highly active, given the topic’s complexity.
    The current housing slump will worsen over the next four years, and the Government is “extremely unlikely to hit its target”, warned John East, the director of planning for Savills planning consultancy. Home-building will drop from 150,000 units a year to bump along 110,000 or 120,000 a year – 60 percent short of the Government’s target.

    East, once a planner for the London Borough of Lambeth, said planning officers need to re-enforce positive messages from development and positive outcomes for development. “Too often officers don’t give (planning committee) members more ammunition to support projects.” Nick Keable said the public opinion trends are all going in the wrong direction for developers – positive support is static, while the opposition is more informed, more briefed and more engaged in fighting development.

    At the opposite end of the spectrum from developers was the spokeswoman for the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). Marina Pacheco acknowledged, “We do spend a lot of time opposing development”. She lamented that there was “a loss of democracy in planning, and that people have less and less say in the process.”

    John Slaughter, speaking for the Home Builders Federation (HBF) showed graphically how public policy expectations and regulatory cost burdens are pricing developers out of the housing market – in areas such as affordable housing, infrastructure, zero carbon, design and lifetime durability.

    One of the conference’s unique features was a series of presentations to builders and planners from the water, waste and aggregates industries that are directly involved before, during and after the construction of new housing.

    Martin Hendry, a water expert and founding director of Adams Hendry, said at the outset that until now there have been no links between water planning and spatial planning, meaning that new water resource options, reservoirs and efficient ways to meet customer needs have been pursued on a separate planning track.

    John Downer, the principal waste management planner for Jacobs Engineering said the waste industry needs to invest about £10 billion to get the equivalent of one waste facility per week through the planning system to meet UK needs over the next eight years. He spoke enthusiastically about waste energy creation, which could provide up to 25 percent of the UK’s energy demand.

    But he said, “It is hard work to get this through the planning process.” Public perceptions about waste treatment, landfills and incineration require massive re-education, but the industry has a positive message to deliver about the industry’s technology and capabilities.

    Simon van der Byl, director general of the Quarry Products Association, bluntly described the impact of the housing downturn on aggregates. The typical three-bedroom new house requires a bout 60 tons of aggregate in the structure and another 200 tons in infrastructure such as pavement, driveways and street paving.

    “What’s happening now is a big brake on both building and on providing materials for building. These aren’t industries that can easily be turned on and off,” he said.

    Without planning permission for new or extended quarries, housing’s demand for aggregates will create a huge carbon footprint. To haul thousands of tons of aggregate 40 to 50 miles to new housing sites will create CO2 emissions of equal or more concern than the environmental impact of quarries themselves, he said.

    “The reality in the last 10 years is that the quarry industry has learned it cannot go on like a dinosaur with its head in the ground. We have reduced accidents by 83 percent. We are smarter about energy usage, our fuel consumption is down by 17 percent in the last three years, and we’re making the link between our work and the buildings we produce. He cited one firm, Brett Group, whose trucks haul aggregate with large photographs on the sides of the vehicles saying “This load is going to build your hospital here.”

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