What Some Property People Really Think About The Coalition

The property constituency is pretty conservative, in all senses of that word, so there is little surprise that estate agents are generally highly supportive of the coalition.

Cameron and Clegg’s government now seems to be firing on all property cylinders after a slow start. Remember how sceptical the industry was when housing minister Grant Shapps was the last major government appointee named, when he was left out of the Cabinet, and when the coalition document had only one line about HIPs?

Since then housing announcements have come thick and fast, the most recent being the (largely under-reported) news that house price indices are to be investigated.

But while estate agents are ending the summer break with a warm glow of support for Eric Pickles, Grant Shapps et al, quite the reverse is true of developers.

I have written two stories in the past week which have required discussions with house builders about targets (or, more precisely, their abolition) and the ending of Regional Spatial Strategy plans to make way for the ‘localism’ initiative.

To say developers have been angry is like saying Tony Blair has his detractors – it’s more than a slight understatement.

One major housebuilder has called the current situation, off the record, “a complete f***ing disaster” while others in the residential development industry are happy to say on the record how the localism agenda has left the planning system in confusion.

I have an email from a senior figure in an industry-leading consultancy, which daily advises major house-builders, saying: “It is my view that the confusion, chaos and uncertainty will only get worse and unfortunately Pickles is not a man to listen to reasoned arguments and is in my opinion the wrong man for this job, a post he did not want in the first place!”

The consultant continues: “I was told yesterday that before abolishing RSSs, Pickles was approached by a delegation of civil servants with a four page document setting out why he should not do it and the likely consequences if he did. I am told his response was ‘just watch me’ and now we are all experiencing the chaos caused by this ill-judged decision.”

Just to make things crystal clear, the consultant concludes: “The current policy vacuum and uncertainty created by Pickles will have a serious impact upon the house building and construction industry across England and I fear for the credibility of the planning process.”

Not everyone I speak with amongst developers and their colleagues are as direct but these views are in every other sense wholly typical of what this sector of the housing industry is now saying. And the individuals saying this are not exactly natural Labour supporters, so the views are reached through a professional process.

So while we are all interested in how the government may change the way we buy, sell and measure the prices of homes, the real property story is elsewhere.

It is set to explode in the autumn, when more on the building side of our business will probably let rip against the coalition in a similar way…now that really is a story.

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