Party manifestos: the sector reacts

Sector bodies have responded to the planning pledges in the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat party general election manifestos, including proposals on housebuilding, green belt protection and major infrastructure projects.

Boris Johnson (left) and Jeremy Corbyn. Pic: Getty Images
Boris Johnson (left) and Jeremy Corbyn. Pic: Getty Images

Conservative Party manifesto

Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of business body London First, said: "There are some welcome infrastructure proposals, particularly the commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail, alongside plans for airspace modernisation and gigabit infrastructure. Recognition of the ambition of HS2 and that Heathrow expansion has the backing of Parliament are encouraging but business will want to see that translate into clear and concrete support for these critical projects. 

"The absence of a firm commitment to Crossrail 2 is disappointing, particularly from a former Mayor of London.  The next government must avoid pitting north against south when it comes to infrastructure investment so all UK regions can grow together. 

"The pledge to boost housing is a no brainer, but we will not see housebuilding on the scale the UK needs unless it is matched by funding from the government, and conditions are created to unleash further private sector investment and free up more land."

In a statement, countryside charity the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said it welcomes the commitment "to not only protect, but to enhance, the green belt". However, it added that it was "disappointed that the Conservative manifesto lacked a significant commitment to build more social homes, which are crucial to end the housing crisis and breathe new life into rural communities". 

Crispin Truman, CPRE chief executive, said: "We welcome the Conservative Party’s ongoing commitment to protect and enhance the countryside next door to our towns and cities, which is a crucial resource in tackling the climate emergency and improving the health and wellbeing of city dwellers. However, feted plans to invest in the environment must be spelled out in more detail, and soon. The planet and our countryside cannot wait any longer. 

"Less positive is the lack of ambition in tackling the affordable housing crisis in rural communities, particularly the need to deliver significant numbers of social homes. We’re calling on the next government to invest £12.8 billion a year to provide genuinely affordable homes, including homes for social rent, with a fair proportion allocated for rural communities. This is the only way we can end the housing crisis once and for all." 

Alan Jones, president of the  Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), said: "I welcome the recognition of the need for more high-quality, environmentally friendly homes across the country – but the Conservative Party’s continued commitment to permitted development rights is inconsistent with this. Councils and local communities are currently powerless to stop the conversion of office blocks into poor quality housing that sidesteps vital quality and sustainability standards. The creation of high-quality and well-designed homes and the spaces around them relies on resourced and skilled local authorities, and professional expertise from project inception to finish.

"It is encouraging to see the Conservative Party recognise the need to create more affordable, accessible homes for disabled people and the aging population. The RIBA’s research shows that housing for older people is creating the country’s hidden housing crisis."

Labour Party manifesto

Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of London First, said: "Commitments to delivering the HS2 route in full, and leaving airport expansion on the table, will go some way to reassuring business that infrastructure remains a priority. However, this is undermined by the worrying absence of Crossrail 2, which has been identified as a scheme of national significance.

"The bold commitment to house building is welcome but there is a real question mark about the impact of wider proposals on the private rented sector, which could significantly hit the ability of build to rent to contribute to solving our housing crisis."

RIBA president, Alan Jones, said: "Labour’s commitments to tackle the lack of affordable housing and scrap permitted development rights – which allow developments to sidestep vital quality and sustainability standards – are encouraging, but their manifesto lacks clarity on how they plan to raise the quality of homes through the planning system as a whole."

Liberal Democrats manifesto

RIBA President, Alan Jones, said: "It’s positive to see the Liberal Democrats recognise the role of the built environment in tackling climate change – calling for all new homes and non-domestic buildings to meet a zero-carbon standard by 2021 and providing free retrofits for residents on low incomes.

"We also strongly welcome their plans to scrap the ‘office to residential loophole’ – protecting high streets and preventing the creation poor-quality and potentially dangerous housing. The RIBA has been clear that the solution to the housing crisis does not lie in permitted development, which gives developers the green light to cut corners and sidestep vital quality and environmental standards.

"Their commitment to building more homes is also positive – especially those for social rent – but numbers must not be at the expense of quality and safety. As events over the past week have shown, our current building regulations are not fit for purpose when it comes to fire safety, and people’s lives are at risk. All political parties must commit to a complete overhaul of the UK’s building safety regulations."

Joanne Halton, head of planning at consultancy Rural Solutions, said both the Labour and Conservative parties "have announced manifesto pledges to support expanding broadband coverage to rural areas, while the Liberal Democrats have pledged to invest in mobile data infrastructure and expand it to cover all homes". 

She said: "We won’t get the connectivity levels political parties say they aspire to achieve without a further relaxation of planning regulations. If any government is serious about rural connectivity, it needs to urgently modify its regulation of mast locations and heights in designated scenic and historic areas, which encompass much of rural Britain. 

"The measures proposed in the recent consultation on reforms to permitted development rights to support deployment of 5G and extend mobile coverage should be urgently adopted and local authorities, communities and providers should also be made to work together to select and designate mast sites in no spot areas, to ensure a minimum level of mobile coverage across rural areas while controlling impact on the landscape."

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