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Last updateThu, 16 Jun 2022 8am

New homes get the hurry-up, but retrofitting what you’ve got cuts crime

Housebuilding is still the big issue in construction, with Cleggie’s campaign to “get Britain building” attracting some distinctly un-LibDem allies. Boris himself has joined the fray by threatening developers who engage in so-called ‘land-banking’ with compulsory purchase.

The London Evening Standard quoted him as telling the London Assembly that the practice of sitting on land waiting for prices to rise was “pernicious”.

“To constrict supply to push up prices by land-banking is plainly against the economic interests of this city,” said the Mayor, although he conceded that not all stalled development was because of land-banking.

• The DPM’s campaign is, of course, connected to the policy of ‘reforming’ planning law and has resulted in the view that housing estates are better than green fields.

It is a view expressed by none other than the planning minister himself, Nick Boles. Mr Boles told the Daily Mail: “The sum of human happiness that is created by the houses that are being built is vastly greater than the economic, social and environmental value of a field that was growing wheat or rape.”

Unsurprisingly, the views of Mr Boles did not meet with universal approval.

Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “Housing can make people happier than fields, but that doesn’t mean it is necessary to spoil fields to produce the new houses that we need.”

Mr Boles occupies the Parliamentary seat of Grantham in Lincolnshire: childhood home of Margaret Thatcher. Nuff said.

• Government measures to encourage housebuilding have had some observable effect, according to two of the country’s biggest developers. The online property newsletter expert agent reported both Barratt and Galliford Try as saying the Help to Buy scheme had brought increased sales.

In its interim statement Galliford Try said: “We welcome the Government’s Help to Buy scheme.

“The early signs of its impact are encouraging and we expect an increase in completion levels from next year.”

Barratt also acknowledge the changes in planning law in releasing land for housebuilding. The group’s chief executive Mark Clare said: “Help to Buy has seen a strong start and we are investing in land and bringing it through planning to meet increasing consumer demand.”

Boris will be pleased.

• One of the biggest issues in the environmental build sector is retrofit. A series of conferences and seminars will be taking place around the country this year following the opportunities presented by Green Deal and the Energy Company Obligation. While strolling around the floor of Greenbuild Expo in Manchester I spotted a stand from my alma mater in nearby Salford, which is one of the academic institutions that have joined with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, professional bodies and big firms to form Retrofit 2050.

Members of the Sustainable Homes Index For Tomorrow initiative (SHIFT – I know) have already embarked on some serious retrofitting programmes. One such is Nottingham City Homes, and it has undertaken an impact study of its ‘Decent Homes’ retrofit scheme in partnership with experts at Nottingham Business School.

The result has not only been warmer and more comfortable homes, but healthier residents and a drop in burglaries. And not even the CPRE objects.

Chris Stokes