The government should strongly consider reducing Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), allow development on suitable areas of Green Belt land and reduce red tape if it is to increase the pace of housebuilding.
That was the widely held view of a group of 30 of Kent’s commercial and residential property specialists and their advisors who met to discuss the ramifications for the sector post-Brexit.
The event, organised by national audit, tax and advisory firm Crowe Clark Whitehill, law firm Brachers and chartered surveyors Caxtons, included presentations from Phil Eckersley, South East agent for the Bank of England, and John Elliott of Millwood Designer Homes.
On a positive note about the economic outlook, Phil Eckersley said: “The Bank expects growth to be stronger over the forecast period than in November 2016, with the economy now projected to expand by 2.0% in 2017 and around 1.75% thereafter. This upgrade will leave the level of UK output around 1% higher over the next three years than expected in November.”
Top of the agenda was a discussion about the outlook for the county’s property market in the run up to Brexit.
Darren Rigden, Partner at Crowe Clark Whitehill, which has offices in Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone, said: “For many, Brexit is still too far away. However, we are finding there is a continued uncertainty, and the potential tax fallout of the UK leaving the EU is hampering confidence. Of more immediate concern is the Housing White Paper published on February 7 2017, which could have gone much further in its efforts to tackle the UK’s housing crisis.
“If the Government is to achieve its ambition to intensify the pace of house building across the country it needs to rethink tax policy, notably cutting SDLT, and allow development on suitable areas of Green Belt land.”
When considering whether the government would adopt a more business-friendly approach to the economy Ron Roser, Chairman of Caxtons, thought there was a longstanding degree of scepticism among the business comunity.
He said: “While there is general optimism about the post Brexit property market in Kent and the wider South East, we urgently need to address the lack of supply of new or good quality commercial property for business, as well as a lack of focus on commercial development if we are to ensure we are best placed for our new relationship with Europe.
“Developers remain frustrated by the planning system and the amount of red tape being put in their way, with the process also being too political. Efforts to fund larger planning departments are to be welcomed as they remain under resourced leading to poor advice, delays and inconsistencies in the planning process, although there are notable differences in performance between different authorities in Kent.”
Sarah Gaines, Partner and Head of Commercial Property at Brachers added: “Much has happened politically which has led to uncertainty across the property market. It has been a privilege to be able to bring property experts together from many sectors to discuss the challenges and opportunities for the year ahead.
“Uncertainty is likely to continue throughout the year due to Brexit and many of our clients are seeking more flexibility in their property commitments in anticipation of this. However, the one thing that is certain, is that Kent has always had a lot to offer the business community and I am sure this is set to continue.”