Budget construction points
¦ £250m FirstBuy shared equity scheme to help first-time homebuyers
¦ Plans to release more government land to housebuilders. New presumption in favour of sustainable development
¦ Speed up planning applications
¦ Changes to permitted developments rights

Budget moves to boost housebuilding have been welcomed by the timber and wider construction industry, but there’s been a mixed response to other measures designed to accelerate economic recovery .

The Budget announcement from Chancellor George Osborne that seems to be getting the most positive reaction in the timber sector is that the government is launching a £250m FirstBuy shared equity scheme to help 10,000 people onto the property ladder.

“It could be very good for us, though it will be interesting to see how it works in practice,” said David Gibbs, managing director of Crawley Parker Ltd.

He added that the cut in fuel duty was “too little”. “We haven’t implemented any delivery charges yet but we are talking about it because it’s expensive, especially on small orders.”

Jonathan Halford, chief executive of Forest Garden plc, said “any initiative to reduce the cost of fuel is welcome because we’re getting hammered with increases in haulage costs”. “Relaxation of planning rules is also good,” he said.

British Woodworking Federation chief executive Richard Lambert described the Budget as political firecrackers to distract from reduced growth, higher inflation, and the full impact of the spending squeeze to come.

“The joinery industry will be grateful for any help, such as the slight reining back of the tax increase on fuel, the measures to encourage housebuilding and support for apprenticeships, but there’s no escaping that the next 12 months will be tough for both employers and employees.”

Construction industry groups welcomed FirstBuy but lamented the lack of support for RMI work.

The Construction Products Association praised planning system simplification and a presumption in favour of sustainable development.

It commended FirstBuy but thought it unlikely the scheme would make much of a dent in the 100,000 annual shortfall in new homebuilding.

The Federation of Master Builders doubted whether it would help the thousands of small house builders struggling to survive.

“The Budget failed to ignite the forthcoming Green Deal programme to retrofit the nation’s homes. No additional incentives such as a cut in VAT for energy-efficient repairs, stamp duty or council tax were announced to make Britain’s homes greener and more energy efficient,” it said.

The Budget also included plans to release more government land to housebuilders, with a pilot auction scheme for land with planning permission. There is speculation this may be on a “buy now, pay later” basis to stimulate growth. Some £350m worth of Ministry of Defence land has been identified which could lead to 20,000 homes being built. Moves to speed up planning and changes to permitted development rights are also included, allowing developers to convert empty offices and warehouses to houses.