• Zero carbon homes by 2010
  • Tony Blair to lead planning taskforce
  • Planning gain supplement delayed

Chancellor Gordon Brown this week unveiled a new deal for developers by unlocking the planning system and promoting green incentives for housebuilders.

In a package of announcements in his pre-Budget statement on Wednesday, the chancellor announced his intention to drive forward radical reforms of the planning system proposed by Kate Barker this week.

He also outlined a series of measures on sustainability, including the exemption from stamp duty of zero carbon homes, which is aimed at spurring housebuilders to build more sustainably.

The housing and planning measures in the Barker review and pre-Budget statement are:

  • Every new home to be zero carbon by 2010, with most new zero carbon homes to be exempt from stamp duty
  • Consultation on energy audits and low loans to improve the energy efficiency of homes
  • Doubling the number of shared ownership homes to 160,000 by 2010
  • Accelerating the release of surplus public sector land for housing to deliver 130,000 new homes over the next decade
  • Redrawing green-belts
  • Establishing an independent commission to handle large infrastructure projects.
Brown announced a rethink of the Treasury’s plan to introduce a planning gain supplement (PGS), which has attracted intense criticism from developers. He confirmed that the government was carrying out fresh consultation on the levy, and that as a result, it the introduction of PGS had been put back to at least 2009.

Although Brown signalled that the government was committed to the development tax, he said ministers would only press ahead with it if further consultation showed that it was “workable and effective”.

The report also says that the PGS will not be levied on schemes that have already received outline planning permission.

The chancellor has also relaxed REIT rules, allowing companies that have less than 75% of their assets in property into the regime.

We are going to end up erecting a shrine to Kate Barker

Paul Callcutt, Crest Nicholson

Building has learned that prime minister Tony Blair has set up a pan-Whitehall taskforce to implement the Barker review’s radical planning reform package.

The Cabinet Office has convened a cross-departmental working group to draw up a white paper, due to be published in the spring, which will provide the template for a planning bill.

The high-level group includes representatives of the Treasury, the DTI, DEFRA, the Department for Education and Skills and the Department for Transport.

The group will focus on measures to improve the speed and responsiveness of the planning system and the delivery of large infrastructure projects, such as power stations and transport projects.

Delivering the pre-Budget statement, Brown said: “We must systematically modernise and improve Britain’s road, rail, housing and civic infrastructure, run down in the seventies, eighties and early nineties.”

The industry has welcomed the government’s stance in both the Barker review and pre-Budget statement. Construction Products Association economics director Allan Wilén said: “We are pleased with the announcements on zero-carbon initiatives and existing stock. Now we want them to clarify exactly what they mean by zero carbon.”

Paul Callcutt, land director of Crest Nicholson, gave a warm welcome to the Barker report. “As far as developers are concerned, we are going to end up erecting a shrine to Kate Barker for removing so many of the myths that surround housebuilding.”

However, Faraz Baber, British Property Federation director for planning, said: “We still have major concerns over how a planning gain supplement would affect the supply of land.”