30 June 2020: Stonewater calls for zonal planning reform to allow for construction of ‘hundreds of thousands’ more homes

Responding to the announcement by the prime minister today on planning reform to boost house building, Stonewater’s Chief Executive, Nicholas Harris, said:

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“The focus from the prime minister on investing to get Britian building again and tackle what the prime minister called the country’s ‘chronic failure’ to build enough homes as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic is really encouraging.

“The ‘radical’ reform of the planning system to aid this process through a planning policy paper in July is welcome. The move to make it easier to convert commercial properties and vacant shops to homes is also good. What we feel would help turbo-charge house building even more is introducing a zonal planning system, to allow more land to be allocated for housing – especially in high-demand areas. We hope that this forms a core part of the new policy paper, as this could lead to hundreds of thousands more homes and be truly transformational.”

On how housing investment can lead the recovery, Nick said: “At Stonewater, we and hundreds of other housing providers stand ready to support a housing-led recovery. We firmly believe – as expressed by the Homes at the Heart campaign – that investment in social and affordable housing is the fastest and most effective way to ensure public funds have the greatest impact in all communities and level-up the economy across the country.

“Whether this is new build to ensure we have the affordable homes needed to house our care, health and other key workers that have supported the UK so well over these past difficult months; or green refurbishment so our existing homes are fit for the future and achieve the net zero-carbon target by 2050.

“The £12.2bn pledge in the Budget in March for the Affordable Homes Prgramme from 2021 was very welcome – it is great to hear that reaffirmed today. We will use modern methods of construction to quickly scale-up the delivery of high-quality, energy-efficient affordable housing. We look forward to hearing more on the government’s housing investment plans in the coming weeks from the chancellor and are ready to hit the ground running.”

Nicholas added: “At Stonewater, we have worked hard these past months to keep our people and our customers safe. It has been tough at times, but our efforts are paying off as the country emerges from lockdown.

“We stand ready to support government action to boost house building. We are clear this increase must be across all tenures to help ensure access to affordable housing for everyone. Despite the recent effects of the pandemic on the construction industry, Stonewater has recently confirmed our commitment to building 1,500 affordable homes a year from 2022/23 – more than doubling our current delivery.

“Our finances remain strong and we have recently raised new funds ensuring we are able to make good on our promise. At the heart of our plans is the partnership with Guinness and Homes England as its largest Strategic Partner, with £224m funding for 4,500 additional high-quality affordable homes by 2022.”

On the opportunity to level-up the economy, Nicholas said: “As a national housing provider with homes across communities in the North and Midlands, Stonewater is well-placed to help deliver on the government ambition to level-up the economy across the country.

“Housing providers are experienced in using investment in new homes to quickly support the growth of local, SME suppliers and workers to support the growth of the construction sector as well as the wider economy.”

On decarbonisation Nicholas said: “This moment is an opportunity for the government and housing providers to invest in improving the energy efficiency of existing homes. This will generate jobs, reduce energy bills and deliver a reduction in carbon emissions and also in the environmental impact of existing homes.

“As part of our plans to respond to the global climate emergency and achieve zero-carbon by 2050, Stonewater is investing to reduce the running costs for residents by improving the energy efficiency of our homes to a minimum of band E by 2020, a minimum of Band D by 2025 and a minimum of band C by 2030.

“In addition, through our commitment to plant six trees for every home we build, Stonewater has already planted more than 8,300 trees in partnership with the Community Forest Trust.”