Buckinghamshire Business First Managing Director Philippa Batting recently attended a roundtable discussion on housing growth and construction in Buckinghamshire. This event brought together some key stakeholders in the construction and housing growth sectors and addressed some key challenges facing both. Here, Philippa provides her thoughts on the event.
Buckinghamshire is already delivering significant housing growth. The 1,860 new homes built in Buckinghamshire in the last year was more than that built in any of the Core Cities, with Aylesbury Vale accounting for nearly two thirds of these. Since the start of 2010, 7,870 homes have been completed in Aylesbury Vale, compared to 2,750 in Wycombe, 1,200 in Chiltern and 1,110 in South Bucks.
However, the demand for new and affordable housing continues to grow in all areas of the county. The roundtable event was designed to uncover what can be done to meet this demand and better advance housing growth. There were plenty of thoughts and ideas put forward by those in attendance.
One thing is clear: by simply maintaining the status quo, the gap in availability, affordability and demand for housing will only grow in Buckinghamshire, particularly as the government’s focus on the Oxford-Cambridge corridor and major infrastructure projects like the expansion of Heathrow creates challenges in our area.
The cost of land preparation appears to be perhaps the single biggest factor in terms of affordability for developers, with those present at the event feeling that collaboration between local bodies on issues such as land assembly had the potential to reduce the initial cost of development. Strong ties between local partners in Buckinghamshire could ensure this kind of collaboration develops and yields results.
There also appears to be a need for greater planning freedom locally to enable new types of housing to be delivered, as well as to ensure this housing can be delivered in or close to town centres and major transport hubs. Buckinghamshire is well placed to take advantage of any new construction methods and techniques, with innovation hubs like the Buckinghamshire University Technical College in Aylesbury primed to fill the training and skills gaps that come with new technologies.
We can also look to the history books, or to models in Europe, for solutions, whereby local authorities or employers in a certain area provide housing specifically for workers, possibly on site, including for those who work in public buildings.
These are just some of the ideas that emerged from the meeting, which was was led by Buckinghamshire Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership (BTVLEP) - who play a key role in advancing growth in the county – and facilitated by Buckinghamshire Business First. BTVLEP and Buckinghamshire Business First will be using all of the insights given on the day as part of our feedback to government as we strive to advance the future growth plans for Buckinghamshire.
Have your say on construction and housing growth
The debate on such an important topic never ends, and I’d love to hear from anyone with thoughts and ideas on delivering housing growth in Buckinghamshire. Email me at Philippa@bbf.uk.com.