Chairman of Strawberry Star responds to chancellor’s budget

Business / Sun 7th Mar 2021 at 10:28am

THE CHAIRMAN of Strawberry Star, the company behind a major part of the regeneration of Harlow Town Centre has responded to this week’s budget.

Chairman of Strawberry Star (strawberrystar.com), Santhosh Gowda, said:

On economic confidence:
“The pandemic has affected our health, our confidence and our wallets. The successful vaccination programme coupled with Boris’s ‘cautious but irreversible roadmap to freedom’ [Boris’s words] to mark the end of lockdown certainly goes a significant way to returning to relative normality. Equally, we hope the extension of both the Furlough scheme and Stamp Duty holiday will encourage confidence and stability in the economy for the next six months at least.”

Building our way out of a Crisis…
“The chancellor made it clear that the UK cannot strengthen its economy in the long term without a global outlook, noting ambitious visa reforms that aim to attract the best international talent in science and tech to help propel the UK as a world leading ‘scientific superpower’. This is fantastic news, and we welcome further investment into the various scientific hubs across the country, particularly the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. The opportunity for growth in this corridor spanning five counties, in terms of job creation, improvement to road and rail networks, retail and new housing, is absolutely vast.

The government previously identified that doubling housebuilding rates in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc coupled with delivering East-West Rail and the Oxford Cambridge Express Way would increase the Gross Value Added of the ‘corridor’ from £90.5billion to £250billion. And with one million homes predicted to be built in the Arc by 2050, there is plenty up for grabs for housebuilders looking to spread their London wings. The area can uniquely deliver the same economic benefits and returns of building in the capital, whilst at the same time, offering a more accelerated housing delivery at readily available sites and a higher output of unit volumes.

“There is a clear link between infrastructure, job creation and providing housing for Rishi’s new ‘scientific superstars’, on top of meeting the 300,00 new-build quota per year. The UK now needs to build its way out of a potential crisis, creating sustainable and successful communities for the long term. We [Strawberry Star] are building in Luton within the Arc in direct response to the increased demand from buyers, tenants and investors. The unique location of Luton – equidistant to Cambridge, Oxford and London – continues to be vital to its success by leveraging the advantages of fast and quick connectivity to each city. We believe Luton could become a hub for people working in science in Cambridge, for example, but who are priced out of the city due to overinflated house prices and low supply, which historically reflects London’s moving patterns too. The National Infrastructure Commission observed that the rates of housebuilding will need to double if the Arc is to achieve its economic potential, so we’d like to see this area prioritised, whereby the delivery of any significant infrastructure project should happen in tandem with well-designed, well-connected new communities.”

On 95% Mortgages:
“Although we’ve seen 90% mortgages slowly return to the market since January after nearly disappearing altogether when the pandemic first struck, raising a 10% deposit is still a real challenge for many, especially for those in the South East where the average house price to income ratio is at its highest level since 2011. A 5% deposit is certainly more achievable, and we welcome the Government’s effort to help buyers realise their home owning dreams. It will be interesting to see the eligibility criteria and how this differs per lender. Given the risks associated with high LTV deals, you can sensibly deduce they will be much stricter.”

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