New Chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed his first Budget yesterday (Wednesday 11 March). Policy Manager Theo Plowman covers which policies will most affect the landscape sector
The new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, revealed his first Budget yesterday. Among a wide range of new policies were some that will affect the landscape sector.
There were hopes that this budget would focus on green issues. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 has overshadowed the climate and biodiversity emergencies. This article will highlight some of the key announcements.
Responding to COVID-19
- Anyone advised to self-isolate will be entitled to statutory sick pay, even if they have not presented with symptoms. Self-employed workers who are elegible will be able to claim contributory Employment Support Allowance
- Firms with fewer than 250 staff will be refunded for sick pay payments for two weeks
- Small firms will be able to access ‘business interruption’ loans of up to £1.2m
(See the LI home page for the LI’s latest updates to members.)
For landscape, the only relevant announcements were:
- A £640m ‘Nature for Climate’ fund to protect natural habitats, including 30,000 hectares of new trees and peatland
- The doubling over the next five years of the total investment in flood defences in England (to £5.2bn)
- £120m in emergency relief for English communities affected by this winter’s flooding, and £200m for flood resilience
Other green measures to tackle pollution and carbon emissions include:
- The scrap of subsidies for fuel used in off-road vehicles – known as red diesel – ‘for most sectors’ in two years’ time
- Increases in taxes on pollution, alongside a £1 billion rise in funding for green transport solutions
- £800m for two carbon capture and storage clusters in the North East
- Promises to more than double research and development investment in the UK’s Energy Innovation programme to £1 billion
Building and Infrastructure
The Chancellor announced new infrastructure spending, some of which could trigger landscape investment:
- More than £600 billion to be spent by the middle of 2025 on roads, rail, broadband, and housing
- £27 billion for motorways and other arterial roads, including new tunnel for the A303 near Stonehenge
- Major forthcoming planning reforms, with added pressure on local authorities that fail to meet housing needs (a Planning White Paper will emerge ‘in the spring’)
- New confirmed allocations from the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF), totalling £1.1 billion
- The announcement of a new £400 million fund aimed at creating more homes on brownfield land
- £2.5bn will be available over five years to fix potholes and resurface roads in England
- There will be a new £1 billion fund to remove all unsafe combustible cladding from all public and private housing higher than 18 metres
Regional investment and devolved nations
- The government has allocated an extra £640 million for Scotland, £360 million for Wales, and £210 million for Northern Ireland
- The Treasury’s Green Book rules (how the Government evaluates its policies) will be reviewed to factor regional prosperity into spending decisions
- There will be a new £1.8bn devolution deal for West Yorkshire, with an elected mayor for the region
- The government announced plans for a new town at Cambridge, and development corporations at four location between the city and Bedford
Overall, the budget delivers a surprisingly large package for the nation. There are some useful short-term measures for business affected by the recent COVID-19 outbreak, as well as some long-term green projects that are welcome.
But the budget is not one that takes leadership on the climate crisis, with a fuel duty freeze and massive spending on road-building far outweighing incentives to tackle the climate and biodiversity crisis.
We will continue to explore the nuances of the budget. Keep an eye on Vista for further updates.