Adrian Ceney, partner at property, construction and infrastructure consultancy Pick Everard said:
“Mr Sunak opened yesterday’s Budget by addressing the most pressing news on the public agenda: the spread of coronavirus and its impact on the UK’s people and businesses, calling for cross-party unity in the country’s response. It is clear the risk of significant impact to all areas of business – including the construction and property industry – is now very real, and crucial contingency planning is being enacted.
“With the COP26 UN climate summit taking place in Glasgow later this year, climate change, the development of a truly sustainable society and investment in the research and development required to achieve our net zero carbon targets featured early on in Mr Sunak’s first financial statement. The development of carbon capture and storage clusters is certainly an exciting announcement. These forms of new technology will play a key role in lowering emissions from industry, including in the production of construction materials.
“In terms of sustainable upgrades to our infrastructure network, a £500 million investment in rapid charging stations was announced, to encourage more electric modes of transport. The Treasury will follow up yesterday’s announcement by releasing a Net Zero Review – as more detail on this is certainly required.
“In terms of addressing our damaged infrastructure, following the recent flooding across the UK, £120 million has been made immediately available to repair all damaged flood defences. Over the next six years, flood defence funding will also be doubled.
“The government intends to invest more than £600 billion in the UK’s infrastructure over the next six years, with £27 billion earmarked for strategic road schemes. This is a big step forward for ‘getting Britain moving’, although does tread a fine line with the challenging carbon commitments. We need to ensure that this investment is fairly distributed across the country – ensuring that regional roads and railways are adequately funded and upgraded. An additional £1 billion being allocated to the Transforming Cities Fund will hopefully address this concern.
“This clear commitment to major infrastructure programmes around the UK should give the construction industry and its supply chains greater confidence to forward plan and invest in the skills and resources needed to deliver.
“Housing also featured in yesterday’s Budget. Mr Sunak announced additional funding for the creation of 70,000 new houses in areas of high demand across the UK and unlocking £400 million to build homes on brownfield sites. The Housing Secretary also plans to set out new reforms on planning, ‘bringing it up to the 21st century’.
“The government has now also promised 40 new hospitals. Appropriate and effective procurement strategies will be essential in the delivery of all these major public investments. This includes ensuring that contracts are let at sustainable rates and will allow the industry to provide real social value in return.”