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News Review: Property

Planning rules have more bite than the Budget by

Nigel Stockton, financial services director,


I’m kicked and praised in equal measure for my bru- tal honestly so my gut re- action to the 2012 Budget measures? Big deal. By that I mean closing loopholes is common sense and the new levy for £2m plus properties lacks the scale needed to make any significant impact. Council of Mortgage Lend- ers statistics said it all really – just 845 sales were com- pleted in 2011 for properties valued over £2m of which about half took a mortgage and could afford a 50% loan to value, so some might ask what’s another 2% to them? But let’s look at the bigger picture and ask ourselves if SDLT even works in the current market? We’ve seen a number of calls for the government to overhaul the SDLT system. Our very own Hamptons International has called the latest hikes a tax for the accidental poor. So should we be looking at tax

Stamp duty alternative I never thought I’d hear my- self saying this but I whole- heartedly agree with RICS that the government missed a trick by tampering at the edges rather than attempt- ing to replace the SDLT slab structure

with a marginal

payment system. At present you get considerable bunch- ing around the artificial boundaries. However it will be very interesting is to see how the consultation for charging corporate purchasers retro- spectively will pan out as it seems the government wants to catch UK-based firms and wealthy non-residents through capital gains tax on residential property held in overseas envelopes.

Anti-avoidance Aside from SDLT, another measure that caused me to raise an eyebrow was the General Anti-Avoidance Rule for the UK tax system

at the point of consump- tion rather than penalising those that happened to have bought in an area with in- creased land values?

which claims to prevent “morally repugnant” tax eva- sion. This measure should address a big tax grey area and this catch-all approach will give the government the powers to decide what’s not cricket. Overall, I was disappoint- ed to see that the govern- ment didn’t use the Budget to do more. I would like to see lender targets for first- time buyers and total lend- ing published. SMEs get the benefit of this and HSBC does this so why aren’t oth- ers?

Planning rules While

the Budget might

have lacked the vision and bite needed to tackle the key issues concerning a market recovery, I was encouraged to see the government held its nerve with the National Planning Policy Framework. Despite the uproar from countryside


I think the NPPF struck a balance between being pro- growth – and let’s not forget we are in a housing crisis – while protecting green belt land. I believe it is a genuine attempt by the government

to apply some much-needed common sense to planning. In my view, NPPF is a

welcome relief to overhaul more than 65 years of plan- ning that has hampered the growth and development of key locations for too long. For all the critics out there I’d like to ask what is the al- ternative? The Office for Na- tional Statistics is predicting that London will grow by 14% while both the East and the East Midlands regions are projected to both grow by 10% respectively. Put simply,

there has

never been a better time to de-regulate planning bar- riers and create jobs. Gov- ernment figures suggest the NPPF could create 50,000 jobs while the Home Build- ers Federation estimates it could be as many 500,000 to fuel future the population increases.

Planning is local and complicated, we know that, so you get a proliferation of NIMBYs but maybe, just maybe, by the time you read this NPPF will manage to make the planning system less complex and more ac- cessible.


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