See what construction had to say about key policy and funding announcements

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has laid out several spending decisions in this afternoon’s budget – ones which are set to have a significant impact on the industry.

With announcements made about infrastructure, housing, healthcare and more there has been plenty to delve through.

But what does the industry think?

Budget 2020 - Briefcase - 11-03-20 - Credit HM Treasury

Source: HM Treasury

‘There could have been more,’ said Gleeds chair Richard Steer

The snap verdict seems to be that it had hoped for more.

Gleeds executive chair Richard Steer summed it up like this: “Today’s budget, for us operating in property and construction, felt a little like a hotly anticipated meal where the chef had leaked much of his surprise menu in advance and when it came to it, the showstopper was something of a soggy soufflé.”

Here’s what others had to say on a number of key issues.

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Housing and planning

  • Dean Clifford, co-founder, Great Marlborough Estates,said: “Funding to unlock brownfield sites and a digitised planning system are welcome initiatives but they are only a small step towards delivering what is needed to meet the government’s own ambitious housebuilding targets. Recent reports suggest that the government is no longer looking for a planning overhaul through moving to a zonal system used in much of Europe. However, significant reforms are needed if we are to deliver the much-needed homes the country requires. Subsidies for first-time buyers are only part of the solution but without supply-side reforms there is a real risk that the gap will continue to widen and the lack of good quality housing will remain.”
  • Bruce Dear, head of London real estate at Eversheds Sutherland, said: “No one is against building on brownfield land or financing housing, it would be like opposing pet dogs. So this new money and its aims are a move in the right direction as we strive to combat our housing crisis. But, like one snowflake in the Sahara, they don’t have the scale or reach to affect the UK’s housing climate alone. Time will tell if the Chancellor’s wider housing settlement achieves that.”
  • James Forrester, managing director of Barrows and Forrester, said: “Time and time again we’ve seen the government pledge to fix the housing market using recycled rhetoric and funding from previously announced initiatives. Today was no different and reading between the lines, we can expect to see them continue to over promise and under deliver in their attempts to address the housing crisis. While Boris Johnson might not be a fan of recycling, his chancellor certainly is and so the 180,000 new homes pledged today is certainly no step forward.”
  • Peter Hawthorne, chief executive of LCR, said: “The availability of capital isn’t the only factor holding back more brownfield development. Many sites with significant potential, particularly in town centres, have complex, piecemeal ownership structures and require close private and public sector collaboration to unlock. The £65m to help digitise the planning system could make it easier for planners and local authorities to identify and bring forward the opportunities that the brownfield fund is committed to supporting.”


  • Mark Robinson, group chief executive at Scape, said: “With the Chancellor’s transport commitment extending what was already a sizeable infrastructure pot to £6.9bn, the next five years represent a critical opportunity to invest in the long-term future of regional communities. At a time when local authorities continue to deal with a range of post-covid pressures, an emphasis will need to be placed on high quality procurement and placemaking to ensure local government can maximise the impact of this latest and substantial capital investment.”
  • Paul Hamer, chief executive, Sir Robert McAlpine, said: “It’s good to see a significant sum pledged for infrastructure but we have seen that before. The devil is in the detail. How will that money be deployed? The key is understanding the detail and getting the funds deployed. I’m very supportive of levelling up – there is a disparity between investment in the south and the north but London has got to continue as the UK’s beacon for investment.”
  • Andrew Davies, chief executive at Kier, said: “As the country emerges from a challenging period in its covid-19 recovery, these investments will provide much-needed upgrades to social infrastructure, transport facilities and local communities across the UK, positively impacting those that need it the most. As well as boosting productivity and positive economic outcomes, today’s announcements also present real opportunities for the construction and infrastructure sector to create new jobs and training opportunities and to enhance sustainability across the built environment.”
  • David Whysall, UK managing director UK Infrastructure, Turner & Townsend, said: “This Autumn Budget was more an exercise in announcing where local transport money would be spent because much of this funding has been previously announced with £1.5bn representing new money for rail, tram and bus projects outside of London. Delivery also requires our industry to be on top of its game. We have taken some significant strides to share learning and innovation through the IPA Project Routemap, the Construction Playbook and the Value Toolkit, but we have to be world class on every project to address regional disparities and forge a path to net zero. Get it right and the UK, and its construction industry, will have everything to shout about.” 
  • Colin Wood, chief executive, Aecom Europe and India, said: “A disappointing omission from the chancellor’s speech was any long-term spending decisions around the delivery of larger projects. Long-term projects such as the eastern leg of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse rail are key to boosting the country’s post-covid economy. We hope the much-anticipated Integrated Rail Plan will include a commitment to deliver HS2 in full and provide further clarity around rail plans for the North and Midlands.”
  • Richard Robinson, chief executive, Atkins UK and Europe, said: “I had hoped to learn more about the Integrated Rail Plan which will not only give our industry clarity on how a number of major projects will be delivered, but also provide towns and communities with greater confidence knowing that infrastructure is going to be put into place which will help unlock regional growth. As such, we urge the government to publish a comprehensive Integrated Rail Plan as soon as possible, recognising its importance as a catalyst for transformative change.”



  • Mark Cleverly, partner CPC Project Services, said: “With infrastructure spending commitments being lined up across the UK from Land’s End to John O’Groats, and from East Coast to West Coast, one has to wonder where are we going to get all the workers from to deliver these plans? Like land, it seems that we just don’t make them anymore in the UK. If we are to have tighter immigration policies restricting the labour market, then this budget could have done more to financially support and persuade adults already in our economy to switch to a well-paid trades career in construction with prospects to work on a once in a life-time pipeline of work stretching more than 30 years into the future.  An opportunity missed to support UK growth.”
  • Stephen Beechey, group public sector director Wates, said“As an employer focused on the skills needed for the future, we were pleased to see a commitment to a ‘skills revolution’. The new funding for T-Levels and adult education will help equip the next generation of construction workers with the skills they need to succeed in a post-pandemic net zero economy.”
  • Andy Reynolds, chief executive RLB, said: “As part of the Chancellor’s focus on education, the £1.6bn commitment to support vocational training for 16-19 year olds shows now is the time for our industry to invest in skills and make our sector at the forefront of innovation and environmental and societal change. We need future talent to understand this role that the built environment can play and attract, nurture, and grow this talent with our industry.”

Funding for net zero

  • Richard Steer, executive chair, Gleeds Worldwide, said: “Last week’s news on the government’s heat and buildings strategy, gave the Chancellor a chance to announce serious funding for a long term national retrofit programme to improve the energy efficiency of the UK’s 30 million buildings but we heard nothing and news of the much delayed revised integrated rail plan was also absent. There was £1.5bn in new money to improve transport links which is welcomed plus £1.8 bn for brownfield residential and £3.8bn to build new prisons. Investment relief on business rates for green improvements is also welcomed as were new discounts for retail and hospitality. But when achieving carbon zero is seen as a bigger issue by most people than covid, the lack of investment in this area was a missed opportunity.”
  • Ben Derbyshire, chair, HTA Design, and a former RIBA president, said: “Disappointing to hear so many tax cuts encouraging consumption of fossil fuels in air and car travel. By contrast there was not a single mention of the drive to Net Zero which is surely the route to effective levelling up; investing in the technology, high quality skilled jobs and industrial capacity to insulate Britain’s leaky housing and build new homes.”

Business rates

  • Trevor Morriss, principal architect at SPPARC, said: “The government is missing a key opportunity to support shops and high streets. This is especially given lack of business rates reform, which retail is set to shoulder a heavy portion of the burden. In the aftermath of covid-19 and the devastating impact on retail and high street recovery, it should be a national priority to stop the decay of high streets which are a valuable community asset.”
  • Melanie Leech, chief executive British Property Federation, said: “While a move to three-year revaluations is welcome, we continue to urgently call for annual revaluations. Businesses need to see long-term reductions in the rates they pay rather than short term fixes. The current practice of downwards transitions needs to end and would give high streets an £8.5bn boost and enable them to forward plan and protect jobs.”

Life sciences investment

  • Raj Deb, principal, science and technology at Perkins & Will London, said: “Overlooking the importance of life sciences real estate assets to support R&D is akin to splitting an atom with a butter knife. To attract and retain talent from overseas universities and institutions which the government is targeting through this fund, the quality and quantity of lab space must meet the demand. Tenants are seeking more and more lab space, and this needs to be matched with the appropriate funding, especially given the difficulties that can arise when turning vacant commercial offices into the relevant facilities.”

Funding for schools

  • Alfonso Padro, principal and director of education at HKS Architects, said: “It’s great to hear that the budgetary focus remains on skills and education, but creating new school places is one thing, creating spaces that allow pupils to flourish is another. Further Education and SEND facilities have on the whole been neglected over the years and now, with an emphasis on both, I hope appropriate and adequate allocation is provided to ensure new facilities are not only fit-for-purpose but world-class exemplars of education provision.”