Simon Allford said bolder action is needed to achieve levelling up ambitions
RIBA has criticised yesterday’s budget for making no mention of energy efficiency improvements and providing no funding for under-resourced planning departments.
While the institute’s president Simon Allford welcomed the Spring Budget’s measures on regeneration schemes and levelling up, he said bolder action on both was needed to make an impact.
Jeremy Hunt’s announcements yesterday included new devolved powers for the Greater Manchester and West Midlands combined authorities, £760m for regeneration projects and the creation of 12 new investment zones.
But the chancellor made no reference to retrofit programmes and provided little detail on tackling the housing crisis.
Allford said: “We welcome the Chancellor’s emphasis on levelling up in today’s Budget. Devolving power to local communities and funding for local regeneration projects both go a long way to answering the call we have long supported for more localised control of levelling up priorities.
“However, if the Government wants to tackle the housing crisis, clear planning backlogs, and provide high-quality, affordable housing for people across the country, we need much better resourced planning departments.
“We must also retrofit our existing housing stock – improving energy efficiency reduces household energy bills, creates green jobs and improves health outcomes. It also brings a sustained boost to the economy and is integral to the low carbon future.
“Unfortunately, adequate resources for planning departments and retrofitting were omitted from today’s announcement. If the Government wants to achieve levelling up across the country, it must take bolder action on both.”
The lack of attention given to retrofit was also flagged by industry groups including Federation of Master Builders chief executive Brian Berry, who said it was “one of the most pressing issues and could result in a huge boost in jobs and economic activity at the local level.”
Cara Jenkinson, cities manager at climate solutions charity Ashden said the budget was a “terrible wasted opportunity,” adding that the £20bn which Hunt earmarked for carbon capture schemes would be better spent on upgrading energy efficiency in buildings.
“The chancellor’s thinking needs a rapid upgrade - just like 19 million homes in the UK that need retrofitting,” she said.
“By laying out measures to boost retrofit demand and creating a generation of skilled retrofit workers, he could have not only generated savings for struggling households, but also given businesses the confidence needed to generate over 200,000 new energy efficiency jobs.”
The Spring Budget contrasted with last year’s Autumn Statement, when Hunt committed to providing £6bn in funding for energy efficiency improvements to buildings for three years from 2025.
The chancellor also unveiled plans for an energy efficiency taskforce consisting of experts from industry and business to advise the government on how to achieve a new target of reducing carbon emissions from buildings by 15% by 2030 compared with 2021 levels.