RIBA, Atkins and AHR respond to Autumn Budget announcements

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), multi-award winning architecture and building consultancy practice AHR, and Atkins – one of the world’s most respected design, engineering and project management consultancies – have responded to the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Autumn Budget to Parliament.

RIBA President Ben Derbyshire said:

“I’m pleased and relieved that at a time of huge challenges and after weeks of speculation the Chancellor has recognised the need for more radical action to address the housing crisis. The RIBA has been calling for the housing borrowing cap to be lifted and for recognition of the importance of investment in infrastructure in addressing the housing crisis for many years. I’m pleased that the Government has listened to the RIBA and other voices.

RIBA’s response on housing in the Budget

“This is a welcome set of announcements, but we will need to see a greater focus across government to meet the scale of the challenge. The Chancellor was right to recognise that politicians have not done enough to tackle the housing crisis over recent decades.

“It will be years before many of these initiatives lead to new homes being built so we urge the Chancellor to reconsider some of the restrictions – particularly the delay in lifting affordable housing borrowing caps for councils until 2019-20.”

RIBA’s response on infrastructure news

“The state of the UK’s overloaded infrastructure remains a huge barrier to growing the productivity of our economy, but with the right decisions, investment can help kick-start economic growth and housebuilding. The proposals for new garden towns and investment in the Cambridge-Oxford-Milton Keynes corridor must be used as an opportunity to promote good design and high-quality new homes that act as a beacon to other new developments.”

RIBA’s response on Brexit developments

“Like the Chancellor, architects are planning for a range of possible Brexit outcomes, but what they really need is certainty from Government. With the lack of clarity about Britain’s future outside the EU continuing to hang over the head of the sector – from Europeans worried about whether they will be able to stay and deciding to leave, to not knowing what our future trade and customs relationship with the EU will be – the whole sector is unable to plan. Delivering on the welcome policies that the Chancellor has outlined to solve the housing crisis and get Britain building will need a confident architecture sector which can continue to rely on the best available talent from around the world and which has the certainty it needs to make long-term decisions.”

Nick Roberts, Atkins’ Chief Executive Officer for UK & Europe, said:

“Through this Budget the Chancellor has put digital and technology at the heart of the British economy, helping maintain our position at the forefront of the technological revolution and providing a solid platform to build future growth. From the trials in mobile and digital connectivity on the Transpennine route and investment in AI and 5G technology, to the evolution of our road transport from internal combustion to electric to fully autonomous, the Government is driving the infrastructure that secures our digitally-enabled future. Furthermore the acknowledgement that we simply have to invest in providing the country’s workforce with the digital skills needed to make the most of these opportunities is a significant step forward and should be welcomed.

“In addition to digital revolution, the Chancellor also recognised the value of traditional infrastructure. The commitments around building more housing, freeing up much-needed land and reforming planning regulations are positive developments, as are ongoing commitments to the big transport projects that connect our great towns, cities, communities and businesses. Underpinning these are further steps towards meaningful devolution which allow local authorities to deliver the local infrastructure projects to meet local needs.”

David de Sousa, Director of AHR, said:

“The Chancellor’s commitment to 300,000 new homes a year in today’s budget is nothing if not welcome. It’s also promising that the government is taking a strategic eye to planning, and has committed to reviewing the disparity between planning permission approvals for homes and actual build starts.

“This in collaboration with encouraging town hall leaders to allocate land to small housebuilders could go some way to alleviate the current crisis.

“However, we would welcome further investment in the technology and skills that the country needs to harness the potential of innovative new approaches that could provide the key to ending the current housing crisis. Pioneering new techniques in modular housing and by extension innovations in modern methods of construction could make the high density low cost housing the country requires viable.

“By implementing cost-effective and cutting-edge methods of construction and approaches, such as modular, that don’t compromise on design or liveability the government can reliably provide affordable housing and reverse the current downward trend in housebuilding.

“Throughout the process it’s also imperative that developers don’t neglect the wellbeing of those that this new housing is destined for, quality must be a priority from inception to completion to make sure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past, and have a futureproof and long-term solution to the housing crisis.”