News | March 15, 2022

Levelling up

The Government’s goal to “level up” the UK isn’t a question of topography, but a bid to address the nation’s economic disparity between its varying regions. The White Paper “Levelling Up the UK” published on 2 February 2022 gives a clear indication of the Government’s aim to spread opportunities so geography holds less weight in determining the prosperity of a region, and housing developers will be expected to play an integral part in helping them achieve this aim.

The problem

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) in its Green Budget found that the UK is one of the most geographically unequal countries in the developed world. The IFS identified areas as having been ‘left-behind’ categorised by low pay, living standards and broad economic underperformance. Inequalities between regions have been heightened by deindustrialisation impacting former mining and steel communities such as South Wales and parts of Northern England. There is also the huge economic impact brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the UK’s exit from the European Union which will have a varying impact from region to region.

What’s expected of house builders

Housing developers continue to be in high demand as they are sought to meet England’s target of delivering 300,000 new homes per year. The implications of  the White Paper mean there will be further pressure on not only meeting this target, but ensuring that the homes are affordable and sustainable. The Government will assist by targeting the delivery of housing developments on brownfield sites outside of London and the South East. The focus is on creating sustainable neighbourhoods with high quality transport links to boost the productivity of the residents. Help will be given to first time buyers through the First Home scheme which will provide a 30% discount to help young people buy a home in their community.

The Government’s housing target will require significant cooperation between local authorities, Housing Associations and developers as they work together to ensure appropriate resources and funding is available to meet their objective. Concern has been raised that the Government’s levelling up targets may be overly ambitious and will be reliant on significant investment from the private sector. Developers already face challenges stemming from the increasing environmental and planning obligations that come with building new homes. The objectives set out in the White Paper are likely to only add to these obligations, which may mean more time and resources spent in developer’s attempts to comply with planning requirements.  

In order to combat some of the current issues presented by local planning, the Government are looking to reform England’s planning systems. Local plans will be more transparent helping both local planning authorities and developers understand what is required of them to meet the community’s targets. The Government are also developing models for a new infrastructure levy allowing local authorities to gain value from developments more efficiently. Finally, compulsory purchase powers will be used to support town centre regeneration and the re-use of brownfield land for development.


There is no denying the need for devolution and for the UK to address the issues of wealth disparity between its regions, and giving local authorities greater autonomy and control of their areas will inevitably bolster their respective economies going forward. However, in order to achieve the targets set out in the White Paper there needs to be a collaborative effort from local authorities and property developers. The Levelling Up Fund will allocate £4.8 billion towards various UK project from 2024-2025, so whilst the levelling up mission is not without challenges the White Paper underscores the Government’s intent, and the real estate sector will form a critical part in achieving this.

Key Points

  • There is significant regional and inter-regional inequality within the UK that has been heightened by Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The real estate sector will play a significant role in helping the Government achieve its targets for ‘levelling up’ the UK.
  • The cooperation of housing developers and local authorities will be integral in building affordable and sustainable homes.