Going nuclear: how should housing associations respond to Hinkley Point C?

Heather Ancient Plymouth office senior partner

Housing associations in the South West are thinking through how to position themselves for future success in the context of presence in the region of Europe’s largest engineering project: the construction by EDF of a new nuclear energy facility at Hinkley Point C.

We were pleased to host a recent event, with Yarlington Housing Association, which has got the ball rolling. Housing associations around the table expressed an urgent ambition to raise the profile of the opportunities and challenges presented by Hinkley Point C for the housing sector. They are keen to pro-actively engage with Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and to design initiatives which maximise regional opportunities to deliver new homes and could be put to Government with a view to securing strategic, regulatory or financial support.

In this context, volumetric house building was a hot topic: modular construction offers the potential to overcome the future labour and material challenges which housing associations believe Hinkley Point C may exacerbate, although it is something with which the housing sector nationally has yet to get effectively to grips. With business plans and ambitions increasingly reliant on development activity, ensuring the pipeline can be maintained is critical and those around our table expressed a keen appetite to innovate to achieve this.

There was a wide ranging discussion about the wider opportunities offered by Hinkley Point C: investment in regional infrastructure, the creation of a local skills legacy, sustained regional and local economic growth and an enhanced national and global profile for the region. There was a great deal of interest in the collaborative approach EDF, West Somerset Council and Taunton Deane Borough Council have adopted to projecting and meeting housing need arising from the construction phase; a multi-tenure accommodation strategy has been put in place which prioritises measures to create extra capacity in the local housing market, supported by investment from EDF and s.106 monies.

Those present recognised, of course, a number of variables which will impact on the effectiveness of this strategy: we don’t yet know, for example, quite how the economic benefits will play out; the radius within which people will commute to the site; the extent to which housing demand arising from Hinkley Point C might displace local people and thus generate demand for additional market capacity; the effect on local rents and house prices; the precise impact on the availability and cost of skills and capacity for other construction in the region.

Housing associations operating in the South West are now keen to quantify some of these variables so that they can work together to realise the opportunities and address the challenges presented by Hinkley Point C. We look forward to continuing the conversation.

Notes:

Hinkley Point C, a new nuclear power station to be built in Somerset by EDF, is projected to generate 7% of the UK’s energy requirement by 2025, to put £4bn into the regional economy and to create 25,000 jobs over its life-time.

If you’re interested in talking with us about any of the issues raised here, please get in touch with Heather Ancient (Partner, 01752 502301, heather.c.ancient@pwc.com) or Ceri Victory-Rowe (Regional Consulting Housing Account Lead, 07841 468582, ceri.victory-rowe@pwc.com). 

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