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Budget 2013: Building the UK out of recession

The 2013 budget delivered a mixed bag to our diverse range of clients. Whilst house builders are rejoicing in light of the Chancellor's speech, renewable energy developers will be disappointed to hear they have been overlooked in favour of shale gas.

With an extra £225 million for affordable housing, a new ‘Help to Buy’ project and an additional £800 million for the existing ‘Build to Rent’ scheme, George Osbourne has finally addressed the shortfall in available housing in the UK.

This financial boost, coupled with the recent changes to planning law, should in turn create a notable increase of jobs in the construction sector and have an added knock-on effect to the wider economy.

The benefits of these proposals are already visible from this morning's markets with shares in Barratt Homes and Taylor Wimpey up 6%.

Our renewable energy clients may however be slightly more sceptical of yesterday’s budget with George Osbourne first exclaiming that the shift to a low carbon economy “should be done in a way that creates jobs rather than costing them” but then going on to segregate fracking as his energy source of choice adding: “Shale gas is part of the future. And we will make it happen.”

Renewable energy technologies such as wind, solar, tidal and hydro did not receive a single mention in yesterday's statement, despite contributing to nearly one third of economic growth in recent years – a serious blow to those who believe the green economy could pull the UK out of recession.

Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom for the environment with the Chancellor promising to take forward two new carbon capture and storage plants, taking up to 90% of carbon emissions from burning coal and biomass for storage beneath the North Sea.

No doubt there will be a strong reaction to the budget over the coming days from both sides of the spectrum, there's certainly been divided opinions in the Consense office!

One thing’s for sure, we look forward to seeing how the planning process evolves in light of yesterday's announcements and how we as a company can support the range of applications proposed by our varied range of clients.

The move to mobile and responsive web design

We've all had the same frustrating problem, you visit a website on your smartphone or tablet and the formatting is so distorted that you quickly go elsewhere.

Apple sold over 125 million iPhones last year, Microsoft has just launched a new range of tablet computers and Smart TVs are being billed as “the next big thing”. As the industry changes it is vital that developers embrace these emerging technologies and adapt their online consultations to improve functionality and increase accessibility.

Rather than creating a website for desktop viewing and an additional site for mobile viewing, responsive web design uses fluid grid layouts to automatically adapt the design of a site to the relevant browser and screen size, whether that is a traditional PC screen, a tablet or a smartphone.

An obvious advantage of implementing responsive web design is improving usability, and in the case of community consultation, further broadening your audience and ensuring inclusivity. Also, since responsive web design uses a single URL (separate mobile sites would typically need an additional URL) it makes it easier for users to interact with the site and share content.

In a the new era of ‘bottom up’ planning, where communities are being encouraged to actively shape local plans, good community consultation is a crucial element in producing a robust planning application. Responsive web design not only demonstrates a willingness to engage but also opens up your consultation to a whole new audience – an audience which wouldn't attend a traditional village hall exhibition.

If you make the effort to engage in new and innovative ways you may be surprised by the positive reaction you receive.

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