Government shocks industry by rethinking home condition reports and planning gain supplement

The government this week made a dramatic U-turn on two major development initiatives, home information packs (HIPs) and the planning gain supplement (PGS) – seriously undermining the future of both.

Housing minister Yvette Cooper announced on Tuesday that home condition reports would no longer be a mandatory part of the HIPs when they are introduced next June.

In the same week, a senior source close to the government told Building that the introduction of the PGS was likely to be delayed until after the next general election.

The news on HIPs has divided the industry. The National Federation of Builders hailed the decision as a victory for common sense, because the cost of producing the packs, incurred by the vendor, could deter people from putting properties on the market, leading to a slowdown in the housing market.

The RICS, however, criticised the government for failing to allow sufficient time to iron out the problem of training adequate numbers of home inspectors.

The soon-to-be inspectors are up in arms at the government’s backtrack and many have threatened to sue to get compensation for money spent on training in the new career – up to £10,000. A significant number have already dropped out of courses and numbers for future uptake are expected to plummet.

The BRE was holding crisis talks with officials at the Department for Communities and Local Government on the role of the home inspector as Building went to press.

Industry insiders have pointed out this will leave a substantial shortfall in the number of people qualified to carry out an assessment for an energy performance certificate, which is still a compulsory element of HIPs.

David Warriner, a member of BRE’s home inspector team, said the future of the EPCs was in doubt. He said: “It is possible there will not be enough inspectors to go round.”

At the same time Building understands that Treasury officials have admitted that they are finding it harder than expected to make the PGS work, but are continuing their efforts.

The source said: “The Treasury is aware that there’s a lot of detailed work to do – we won’t see anything before the next election.”

John Healey, Treasury economic secretary, said earlier this year that the government was rethinking the PGS (26 May, page 11).

But the government has since denied reports that the PGS has been axed following a meeting between planning minister Yvette Cooper, Healy and John Walker, former Commission for New Towns chief executive.