8 July 2020: Stonewater's response to the chancellor's announcement

Stonewater hails green retrofit focus and calls for continued ‘rapid pace’ to tackle fuel poverty.

Nicholas Harris

Responding to the announcement by the chancellor today (8 July) on a £3bn energy-efficiency investment, Stonewater’s Chief Executive, Nicholas Harris, said:

“The chancellor is right to focus on the potential of mass retrofitting homes to create thousands of jobs and help the UK economy bounce back from COVID-19. There is an incredible opportunity to improve energy-efficiency and tackle fuel poverty. The £50m social housing decarbonisation fund is a welcome first step to ensure we invest in the best approaches and technologies. Once this is clear, however, as a country we must maintain this rapid pace and seize the chance by investing the necessary sums – and it will be billions – to create jobs, cut carbon and end fuel poverty.”

Commenting on the confirmation of the £12bn Affordable Homes Programme from March 2021, Nicholas, said:

“At Stonewater, our priority over these past months has been customer and colleague safety and well-being. The confirmation of the £12.2bn, five-year, Affordable Homes Programme to build 180,000 affordable homes is a very welcome step in the continued recovery from the pandemic. It will allow Stonewater and many other housing providers to help hundreds of thousands more people out of temporary accommodation and off council waiting lists into sustainable, affordable homes. It will also allow us to continue to support hundreds of jobs: every new home built supports 1.5 - 2 jobs in the construction supply chain. Where possible, we will look to participate in the new Construction Talent Retention Scheme to protect existing employment.

“We will ensure the public investment announced today is matched many times over by our own funding. Stonewater has recently confirmed our plans to more than double our housebuilding to 1,500 homes a year from March 2022. At the heart of this effort is the partnership with Guinness as Homes England’s largest Strategic Partnership, with £224m funding for 4,500 additional high-quality, affordable homes by 2022.”

Jonathan Layzell

On the potential for planning reforms and the importance of a ‘zonal’ planning system, Jonathan Layzell, Executive Director – Development at Stonewater, said:

“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.

“A move to a zonal planning system would present a number of benefits. The most important of these would be speed. In most instances for Stonewater this would see the length of time taken to grant planning permission cut in half from around six months for us to the government target of 13 weeks.

“At present the planning process takes far too long and has too many delays – one of our schemes to build 48 affordable homes in Worcestershire took more than two years to receive consent.”

On the other benefits of a zonal planning system, Jonathan said:

“A zonal planning system would mean much earlier and more effective public engagement in the planning process. Local people and politicians would be able to set the rules up front and all developers would have to abide by these. Decisions could then be made much more quickly by planning professionals.

“The more we can focus and streamline the process, the less time people are spending waiting for affordable homes to be built, the less wasted cost on planning delays. Also, we will be able to focus on what matters most: the design and creation of many more beautiful, sustainable new communities.”

On the six-month Stamp Duty holiday for homes worth up to £500,000, Jonathan said:

“Stonewater is a leading provider of all tenures of affordable homes – including for affordable home ownership where we already have 3,000 shared owners. Our shared ownership homes are available to help people onto the property ladder in communities across the country. The Stamp Duty holiday is a welcome move which is likely to boost a flagging housing market and give more people confidence to buy.

“At present, there is already a Stamp Duty exemption for first-time buyers of homes worth up to £300,000. Most of our shared ownership customers are first-time buyers, but a further Stamp Duty holiday will provide welcome extra help, and will support those looking to ‘staircase’ to purchase an increased share of their home.”

Patrick Chauvin

On decarbonisation Patrick Chauvin, Executive Director – Assets at Stonewater, said:

"As part of our plans to respond to the global climate emergency and achieve net zero by 2050 Stonewater is investing to reduce the running costs for residents by improving the energy efficiency of all our homes to Band C by 2030. Our current SAP rating of 72 is above the sector average so we will be starting the next phase of our energy efficiency journey from a good position."

“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.”

Comments from this piece were included in Inside Housing's sector response article. You can read the full article here.