Shapps: No complacency in the drive to build more homes

The latest figures published recently show that there were just over 29,000 housebuilding starts in the first quarter of 2011, an increase of 26 per cent compared with the previous quarter, and the highest quarterly figure for almost three years. Annual housing starts have also increased, with a rise of 22 per cent compared with the 12 months to March 2010.

Mr Shapps said the results show reasons for optimism in the construction sector, but was crystal clear there would be no room for complacency in the drive to build more homes after the previous system of top down control left the country with the lowest rate of peacetime housebuilding since 1923-4.

Government plans are well under way for a wholescale return of powers to councils and communities, so they can make their own decisions on housing and development issues and boost economic growth.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps said:

"When this Government came to power last year we surveyed the smoking wreckage of the construction sector and made a promise – that we would take swift and bold action to get Britain building again.

"Today’s figures are welcome, but they are only the start of the story. I’m determined that there should be no slowing down on the road to recovery, so we will continue dismantling the failed Regional Strategies and their legacy of animosity between developers and communities, and return powers to the local level so communities can drive economic growth and create new jobs in their area.

"The construction industry that builds the homes this country desperately needs can also expect more help. We will work closely with housebuilders and listen to their suggestions about how we can improve, and continue to strip away the bureaucracy and red tape that for so long has piled unfair costs on this vital sector of our economy.

"The first cash payments under the New Homes Bonus have been made, so communities can experience the benefits that growth brings. Totalling almost £200 million, these payments are a significant amount of funding at a time when public finances are tight, and it’s now crucial that councils talk to their communities about how they would like to spend this money, and what growth they would like to see in future."

Ministers are committed to put in place a package of reforms that address all issues across the housing sector. These include:

•assisting first time buyers who are struggling to purchase a home in the market due to large deposit constraints
•supporting private sector growth by reducing regulation and other burdens on house-builders
•transferring power from central government to councils and local people, so that they can shape development in their areas
•replacing top down targets with powerful cash incentives so, instead of simply feeling the strain that new building projects place on existing services, communities will now have a reason to support new development; and
•accelerating the release of public sector land for new development.

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