‘Come and see me if you can’t find sites’: UK woos world’s housebuilders – The Guardian

The housing minister, Gavin Barwell, has told the world’s housebuilders that if they cannot find enough land on which to build new homes they can “come and see me” and he will try to help.

Barwell told developers at the world’s biggest property conference in Cannes on Thursday that he wanted to be “clear and unequivocal” that he was there to help them build hundreds of thousands of new homes to help fix the UK’s housing crisis.

“If you’ve got parts of the country where you want to build homes and you’re struggling to find land, you come and see me and I will then raise those issues with the relevant local authorities,” he told investors at the UK government’s first promotional stand on the famous waterfront in the south of France. “I don’t want people who want to build unable to do so because they can’t find the sites they want.

“That’s an offer to anyone in this room – if you’re struggling to find sites you [can] come talk to me and I’ll try and do something about it.”

Barwell said the government was committed to building more homes that families desperately needed and to releasing enough land for 160,000 new properties.

In promotional leaflets handed to developers and investors, the prime minister, Theresa May, said the UK was “open for business” and was “more committed than ever to creating the most business-friendly environment possible”.

May said “attracting investors to the whole of the UK’s real estate” would be a key driver of the UK economy in the post-Brexit world. “As we leave the European Union, I am determined that we will seize the opportunity to forge a bold new role for a global Britain as the most outward-looking, free-trading nation in the world,” she said.

A scale model of the City of London at the Mipim conference in Cannes.

A scale model of the City of London at the Mipim conference in Cannes. Photograph: ASM/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

Officials said Britain had its biggest presence yet at the Mipim conference, with its adverts dominating the entrance to the conference centre. Cities including London, Manchester and Leeds, along with the Midlands and dozens of other regions and local authorities spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on stands to try to attract investment from global developers and investment funds.

Barwell told property industry figures that he wanted to “change the politics” of housebuilding so that local people did not automatically protest at the suggestion of new construction. The Croydon MP also vowed to have “hard discussions” with local politicians who held up development.

Barwell said he would try to make sure housebuilding projects came with fresh infrastructure investments to allow communities to cope with additional residents. He also said more needed to be done to ensure newbuild homes were of good quality and design.

“People welcome homes that are really innovative in design, or fit in with the local area,” he said. “What they don’t like are homes that look like they could have been plonked down in any area of the country.”

Liam Fox, secretary of state for international trade, said the creation of a dedicated UK government pavilion at Cannes was a recognition of the “great changes and opportunities that exist for the real estate sector following the British electorate’s decision to exit the European Union”.

In prepared remarks, he said the Department for International Trade would help overseas investors by “facilitating flows of foreign capital into investment opportunities across the whole of the country”.

“Mipim is an important opportunity to showcase the wide range of investment opportunities that exist across the UK, from Southampton to Edinburgh, Coventry to Swansea and key sectors from tech to creative,” Fox said. “It shows investors both within the UK and from overseas understand the scale of our ambition and the role they can play in achieving it.”

‘Come and see me if you can’t find sites’: UK woos world’s housebuilders – The Guardian