The Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership Ltd. (LLEP) welcomes the changes to housing and planning regulations announced last week by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick MP.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s landmark ‘new deal’ speech of 30 June set out key goals around homebuilding to help get the UK construction industry moving quickly post-coronavirus.
In it, Mr Johnson alluded to changes in planning regulations, to allow local leaders to “take control” of their area’s development. Mr Jenrick’s letter to the LLEP, received on the same day, further elaborates on this proposal, with details on changing the use of commercial and public buildings; regenerating vacant and redundant buildings; increasing home building and ownership; and empowering local leaders to make independent planning decisions.
The ability to change the use of commercial buildings quickly will be imperative to the continued prosperity of our high streets as we move out of lockdown but continue with precautionary measures. The public’s spending habits have changed significantly over the first half of 2020, with internet sales as a percentage of total UK retail spending rising from 18.9% in February to 32.8% in May. With this in mind, the LLEP is keen to support businesses to react with agility to the changing nature of the market and make use of their premises in new and innovative ways.
The regeneration of vacant and redundant buildings is something that the LLEP has had great success with. The Friars Mill development at Leicester Waterside was funded with £1million Local Growth Fund (LGF) through the LLEP and is now a thriving centre for innovative businesses.
This year, the LLEP’s decision to allocate £4million of Growing Places Fund to The Gresham development has ensured that Leicester’s iconic Fenwicks building will be brought back into public use as state-of-the-art co-working spaces and high-quality ‘aparthotel.’ The LLEP welcomes the government’s statement on supporting such regenerative efforts, and the opportunity to continue to grow the urban economy of Leicester and Leicestershire in this highly sustainable manner.
Home building is essential for a growing economy and population, to ensure the workforce has secure, affordable and accessible housing in which to live. Building new homes also creates jobs, both in the construction industry in the short-term, and in new communities that are created in the long-term.
In Leicester and Leicestershire, the LLEP has supported significant infrastructure projects to allow the building of homes, including the Lubbesthorpe development (4,250 new houses), while an announcement will be made in August regarding the LLEP-funded development of several thousand new homes at Leicester’s Waterside.
Therefore, the LLEP is pleased that the government is looking to increase homebuilding as part of the Prime Minister’s ‘new deal,’ and eager to support the implementation of plans to get new homebuilding projects off the ground.
Of particular interest is Mr Jenrick’s proposal to support SME homebuilders with £450million in loans; the LLEP is keen to ensure that construction sector SMEs in Leicester and Leicestershire have the opportunity to benefit from this funding.
The LLEP will continue to work with both central government and our local authorities, as they receive new powers to ‘level-up’ their ability to identify and initiate new building programmes. Mr. Jenrick’s announcements enable the LLEP to feed this information into discussions relating to the allocation of the £20million Getting Building funding for Leicester and Leicestershire infrastructure projects announced last week.
Kevin Harris is Chair of the LLEP Board of Directors. He said:
“This latest statement from central government is welcome, as we continue to strive to grow the economy of Leicester and Leicestershire. The LLEP has immense experience of supporting the delivery of successful building and infrastructure projects, through careful allocation of funding.
“We have an excellent track record with projects that can and do deliver the greatest benefit to our region’s economy. Success stories, including Friars Mill and Lubbesthorpe, are testament to this and I’m excited to see what the next chapter of development hold for Leicester and Leicestershire.”
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