EG: Tatton Estate is the largest private landowner in east Cheshire, with around 500 residential and commercial properties. Do you think the Northern Powerhouse has been high on the government’s agenda at conference?
HB: Yes, I think it is very heartening to see that the Northern Powerhouse remains firmly on the agenda. I think it is a misapprehension to suggest that it is at the expense of other areas of growth, and it’s fantastic to see for example the Midlands Engine so strongly represented here today in Birmingham, and all of these areas need a really good brand that is quick to communicate the offer that exists both within the south of England and London, a global financial centre, but also internationally.
EG: How would you describe the mood towards business at this year’s conference?
HB: I came fairly nervous about the government’s approach to business, and it seems to be taking a very sensible and balanced approach between very much being pro-enterprise, acknowledging that government does not create jobs, businesses do. Including, particularly small businesses, not just the large ones. And that it’s got to create an environment to create wealth, while also encouraging the responsibility and helping restore public confidence in business.
EG: How do you rate housing minister Gavin Barwell?
HB: There is quite a strong consensus that the housing minister is one of the most impressive in terms of how quickly he’s got control of his brief. And, he’s not criticising others, but looking to clean his own stables before trying to solve the problem of other places and business. So, in particular, he has said that government and local government need to do more to deliver housing and if government does everything it needs to do in particular resourcing local planning authorities which is absolutely key, and then the industry does not deliver then it is entirely right to clamp down on them.
EG: What kind of policy priorities would you like to see come out of the housing white paper?
HB: Definitely a lot more detail is needed from a policy perspective. The one we have been waiting for for a long time in the planning arena is around permitted development and the ability to demolish and rebuild, both for agricultural permitted development and for commercial permitted development. And this is a really good opportunity to significantly increase the supply of brownfield development sites and the continual delay is causing a significant throttle on delivery.
EG: One of your significant proposed developments is the Cheshire Gateway logistics and science park. Are you positive about the government’s new industrial strategy?
HB: Yes, we are very proud to be promoting a site called the Cheshire Gateway which is on the new £212m A556, one of the first shovel-ready Northern Powerhouse projects just on the edge of Manchester. We see that so many science facilities in the UK are dependent completely on brownfield land supply which is more and more hard to come by and therefore the focus from local planning authorities and groups like Transport for the North to identify sites and the key areas of growth for our economy is really key. And, science and innovation clearly is at the heart of this industrial strategy, and we are hopeful that his government will do more in terms of delivery.