Infrastructure obstacles to be overcome with new government-backed pilot

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A new pilot scheme backed by the government will unblock infrastructure delays that are holding up the process of housebuilding

A new pilot scheme aimed at speeding up the housebuilding process has been launched. The scheme focuses on issues surrounding infrastructure, in particular delays caused by utility firms connecting new housing developments to the relevant network.

The scheme, which was designed by Natalie Elphicke, chief executive of The Housing & Finance Institute and author of The Treasury sponsored Elphicke-House report, aims to bring together key players in the private and public sector to identify hold ups in the process.

This is not the first time issues with utility firms have been raised. Earlier this year The Housing & Finance Institute published a major report highlighting how failing water companies are making it difficult for private developers to build more homes.

The pilot scheme

The pilot will be carried out in the South-East. Involved in the scheme will be the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, the Home Builders Federation, Laing O’Rourke, Anglian Water, Kent County Council, Essex County Council, KeepMoat, the Chair of the APPG for Infrastructure, and the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Through the scheme it is hoped problems with infrastructure can be identified and addressed to speed up housebuilding. The scheme will focus on housing developments that have faced delays due to issues connecting water, sewage, electricity, gas or roads.

Elphicke said: “When we speak to housing developers, they often say it is water, electricity, gas, broadband and roads which are impeding their ability to build more homes faster.

“Water and sewage connectivity is a particular problem, with some water companies completely failing to deliver what housing developers require. This has been slowing down the rate of housing completions right across the country.

“Our hope is that this new pilot scheme, which brings together key players from the private and public sectors, will provide us with a blueprint for fixing these issues and facilitating accelerated housing growth.”

Increasing the number of new homes

The scheme will run until May 2017, with an initial report due at the end of January. Findings will be reported to Housing and Planning Minister Gavin Barwell MP and Stephen Hammond MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure. It is hoped the plan can be rolled out nationally this year, if it proves successful.

Barwell said the government remains committed to increasing the number of homes delivered. He added: “I welcome this new pilot scheme and its focus on identifying ways of working together to overcome infrastructure barriers, and I look forward to seeing the initial report on its findings.”

Issues with infrastructure can severely hamper a project. For example water companies can take between six months and a year to connect a property and still meet their regulatory target.

The HFI’s ‘Let’s build more homes faster’ report,  published earlier this year, found most water companies were failing to meet performance targets. According to the data, only Dee Valley, operating in Wales and Cheshire, secured 100 per cent of connections. Affinity Water, which services the South East and London, failed to meet its performance target by nearly 60 per cent. Over the first three quarters of 2015, its performance fell by nearly 40 per cent.  Thames Water, Southern Water and South Staffordshire also saw poor performances, with 20-25 per cent failure rates in at least one quarter of 2015.

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