What changes to government policy would you like to see that would allow you to build more homes?

The need to ‘level up’ is very much in line with Gleeson’s central purpose of providing high quality low-cost homes in areas where they are needed and for the people who need them the most. Our sites are situated across the Midlands, Yorkshire and north of England, typically in areas of significant deprivation and in need of regeneration, with many being brownfield sites.

By building genuinely affordable high-quality homes, Gleeson enables and empowers young first-time buyers who are desperate to get onto the housing ladder and are often in sub-standard rented accommodation or living at home. A couple on the national living wage can afford to buy a Gleeson home on any of our 80 sites, and it is cheaper to do this than to rent an equivalent property. This provides a critical route out of the renting trap. Our customer demographic is young and a significant number work in important roles to society: three quarters of our customers are under 35 and two-thirds are key-workers. What we do makes a critical contribution towards the government’s stated aim of levelling up local economies.

However, the government must make it easier for smaller builders to flourish. It must also ensure that the burden of all the proposed costs driven by regulatory changes do not stall the development of sites in areas of marginal viability – often areas of deprivation and much needed regeneration.

For instance, the most recent Queen’s Speech (and subsequent rhetoric has) focused on the introduction of new design codes, and placemaking around the development of new sites across the UK – this is something that the industry supports and has been working towards. In particular, design codes need to deliver what customers want/need in their homes. Often, design codes can appear rather city-centric focusing on density and parking solutions that consumers simply don’t want. Gleeson already tailors its designs locally.

Similarly, other areas of regulation that we have previously flagged as likely to increase costs and therefore impact the viability of future sites include upcoming regulations such as Part L. There are also increased costs associated with meeting the requirements of new regulations under the Environment Act 2021, including rules focused on enhancing biodiversity on new sites, which we have already started to implement. The cost of ensuring a biodiversity net gain on sites can often be significantly greater on brownfield sites than greenfield – regeneration of marginal viability that simply cannot bear these additional costs. There needs to be relief from this burden where brownfield and regeneration sites would otherwise remain undeveloped putting further pressure on greenfield development.

Meanwhile, despite universal agreement that homeowners impacted by fire safety issues should not have to bear the costs of remediation on their properties, the government continues to impose new taxes on the sector to deliver this, while others, such as material manufacturers, avoid bearing any responsibility for the costs of resolving this.

Finally, a key area where we look forward to seeing more detail from the new government is how greater resource will be allocated to local councils in order to help speed up the planning process. The length of time that planning is taking, the significant costs and uncertainty that planning necessitates is an increasing barrier to housing delivery, especially for smaller and medium sized housebuilders. We would like to see increased planning fees being invested in local planning resource and we would like to see local planning authorities being obliged to respond more quickly to ensure the time to achieve planning consents and the uncertainty in the planning system are both reduced. The uncertainty of planning is simply a cost that is increasingly prohibitive to small and medium sized housebuilders.

Any other comment on the current housing development landscape?

The want to see a return of constructive engagement and a willingness to listen, from whoever is in power from September and to reset the relationship between the government and housebuilding industry. The current environment risks driving small and medium sized housebuilders out of the market, further consolidating delivery into the large builders which worsen the prospect of sorting out the nation’s backlog of much needed affordable housing of all tenures.

Delivering an ever-greater number of affordable homes is of crucial importance to the strength and functioning of the economy, getting young people out of the ‘rent trap’ and into homes and communities where they want to stay and contribute to the local ecosystem. Home ownership has been proven to have benefits for society at large, such as by reducing crime, enhancing civic participation, improving financial education, and supporting better health (both mental and physical). As such, we hope the government re-commits to its targets for new homes to ensure everyone has the opportunity to live in an affordable and quality home rather than abandoning the target to appease a minority.