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General election: Manifesto pledges for the built environment and key industry responses

With the 4 July 2024 polling date for the UK General Election rapidly approaching, the main political parties have now published manifestos, setting out their plans and policy intentions for the next parliamentary term should they be elected.  

Below, we outline the key pledges of these manifestos concerning the built environment and the responses of three influential voices from sector; the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC); the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

To ‘jump’ ahead to a key party of interest, click the menu below:

Labour Party Manifesto – Our Plan to Change

Housing

    • Delivering 1.5m new homes in England over the next five years.

    • Immediately update the National Policy Planning Framework to restore mandatory housing targets.

    • Fast-track approval of urban brownfield sites and prioritising the release of lower quality ‘grey belt’ land.

    • Implement solutions to homes affected by nutrient neutrality- without weakening environmental protections.

    • Introduce a permanent, comprehensive mortgage guarantee scheme for first time buyers.

    • Immediately abolish Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions.

Infrastructure

    • Merge the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) and Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) into a single infrastructure body, Nista.

    • Improvements to rail connectivity in the north of England, fixing five million potholes over the next five years and better preparing communities for extreme weather events.

    • Bring the railways into public ownership.

Industry response

UKGBC

    • Broadly welcoming of manifesto for the green built environment sector; from upgrading damp homes, and new renters’ rights to ensuring new developments are sustainable with increased climate resilience and promoting nature recovery.

    • Supportive of focus on grey / brownfield development, and the party’s promised review / upgrade of National Planning Policy Framework.

RICS

    • Manifesto underpins the importance the party will be giving to planning and land reform to meet housing needs: ‘Labour is right in identifying planning reforms as a policy lever for boosting economic productivity’.

    • Pleased to see reform of the National Policy Planning Framework, and the setting of mandatory development targets.

    • Welcomes the commitment towards improving the energy efficiency in homes but recognises ‘the announcement in the manifesto of £6.6 billion in their warmer homes programme is less than what the party previously aimed for’.

    • Expanding Awaab’s Law to the private rented sector (PRS) and supporting leaseholders from further building safety remediation costs is welcomed

RIBA

    • Welcomes Labour’s ambitions to deliver high-quality, sustainable homes and pledge to fund additional planning officers. Supports proposed updates to the National Planning Policy Framework, a brownfield-first approach, and the release of low-quality ‘grey belt’ land for development. 

    • Asks: ‘How will the Party deliver the next generation of council houses? Where’s the comprehensive National Retrofit Strategy to cut people’s bills and reach net zero?

Conservative Party Manifesto – Clear Plan, Bold Action, Secure Future

Housing

  • Building 1.6m homes in England through the next Parliament
  • A “new and improved” Help to Buy scheme
  • A Renters Reform Bill for “landlords and renters alike”, with court reforms. promised to abolish Section 21 evictions
  • Fast-track brownfield residential. developments in cities.
  • Abolish nutrient neutrality.
  • Make the 2022 Stamp Duty threshold permanent.

Infrastructure

  • Invest £8.3bn to fill potholes and resurface roads.
  • Commit a further £12bn to Northern Powerhouse rail work between Liverpool and Manchester

Industry response

UKGBC

  • Manifesto ‘doesn’t go anywhere far enough on addressing the linked climate, nature and cost-of-living crises we are facing’.

  • Cites need for a plan to decarbonise the country and upgrade people’s homes and town centres.

  • Highlights need to address damp and dangerous homes.

  • Concerned with proposals to abolish nutrient neutrality rules and replace them with a one-off mitigation fee.

RICS

  • Proposals to scrap nutrient neutrality laws ‘will support the unlocking of some developments stalled in planning’ – but this contrasts with the Conservative government’s announcement of £110 million last year to focus on mitigation works rather than simply removing environmental regulations’.
  • Welcomes a proposed Renters Reform Bill to drive up standards and quality for tenant.

  • On return of a form of Help to Buy type, RICS says this can be inflationary… ‘demand-side solutions must be combined with workable supply-side solutions’.

  • Notes that ‘little detail’ shared about the £6 billion proposed to focus on home energy efficiency upgrades and comments: …’previous schemes fell short of their ambitions as incentives, without regulation, were not a strong enough motivation for many consumers’.

RIBA

  • Welcomes commitments to prioritise brownfield development, support community housing schemes, and deliver homes for older people, but says ‘it lacks a clear strategy to upgrade our shamefully energy inefficient housing stock’.
  • Commends acknowledgement of need for a more efficient planning system, but ‘fails to mention the lack of adequate expert resource’.

Liberal Democrats Manifesto – For a Fair Deal

Housing

  • Increase building of new homes to 380,000 a year across the UK, including 150,000 social homes a year.
  • Abolish residential leaseholds and capping ground rents to a nominal fee.
  • Immediately ban no-fault evictions, making three-year tenancies the default, and creating a national register of licensed landlords.
  • Introduce ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ planning permission for developers who refuse to build.
  • Give local authorities the powers to end Right to Buy.

Infrastructure

  • Increase rollout and support for electric vehicles.
  • Increase devolution to give local authorities power to upgrade local infrastructure.

Industry response

UKGBC

  • Welcomes the ‘emergency Home Energy Upgrade programme’ and boost to renter’s rights for those living in cold, damp homes: ‘Ensuring new homes have public services, green spaces and are protected from climate risks like flooding are sensible proposals’.

  • However, there is criticism of a ‘lack of commitment’ to fight for scale of public investment needed to deliver on these promises, which the UKGBC estimates to require £64bn over 10 years.

RICS

  • RICS is ‘glad to see’ some details on how the party intend to deliver 380,000 new homes per year, of which, 150,000 will be social housing.

  • Welcomes emphasis on placemaking, reforming planning fees and resource systems, and changing building regulations to mandate low-carbon technologies. 

  • Proposals to introduce EPC C minimum for landlords by 2028 must be ‘supported by potential funding and advice services for landlords, otherwise we could simply see them sell the property – exacerbating the rental crisis and simply shifting the burden of improving the property onto other consumers’.

RIBA

  • Commends proposal to deliver 150,000 social homes and mandate a zero-carbon standard for new builds; and the Home Energy Upgrade retrofitting programme.
  • Urges the party to consider mandating both operational and embodied energy as part of their new zero-carbon standard, and to consider using stamp duty as a retrofit tax incentive.

Green Party Manifesto – Real Hope. Real Change

Housing

  • 150,000 new social homes every year.
  • End the individual ‘right to buy’, to keep social homes for local communities in perpetuity.
  • Introduce rent controls, a new stable rental tenancy and ending no-fault evictions, as well as introducing a tenants right to demand energy efficiency improvements.
  • Ensure that all new homes meet Passivhaus or equivalent standards and house builders include solar panels and heat pumps on all new homes, where appropriate.

Infrastructure

  • Require all new developments to be accompanied by the extra investment needed in local health, transport and other services.

Industry response

UKGBC

  • Commends party for putting ‘fairer, greener homes’ at top of manifesto as a useful contribution to driving the issue up the next government’s agenda.

  • Describes the Green’s pledge that all new homes meet Passivhaus or equivalent standards as ‘very ambitious’.

RICS

  • Comments that the Green’s proposed ten-year programme of retrofitting (to help decarbonise) the UK’s 30 million existing homes, is ‘perhaps the most ambitious retrofitting strategy of the manifestos, although a huge skills gap will need to be overcome to make this achievable’.

  • While the party aims to build 150,000 new social homes a year, for private renters and first-time buyers, the manifesto ‘falls short of any detailed plan to increase supply’. 

  • Comments that the party’s proposal to allow local authorities to set rent controls risks ‘a run -on supply, as landlords either exit the market due to their own cost-pressures or inflict record- high rent increases between tenancies, as seen in Scotland’.

RIBA

  • Welcomes commitments to provide 150,000 new social homes, invest in upgrading leaky and draughty housing and develop green skills.
  • Commends extra funding for local authorities.
  • Calls for proposals to calculate whole-life carbon to be embedded in building regulations. 

Reform UK – Our Contract With You

Housing

    • Fast-track the building of housing on brownfield sites, as well as infrastructure projects.
    • Reform social housing law to prioritise local people and “those who have paid into the system”.
    • Protection for leaseholders – all potential charges for leasehold or freehold residents must be clearly stated and consented to. Enforce Section 106 agreements.
    • Ensure it is cheaper and easier to extend leases to 990 years and buy freeholds.

Infrastructure

    • Overhaul and merge the National Infrastructure Commission and the Infrastructure Bank. Simplifying the funding process to save time, cut waste, and boost funding and accountability.
    • Accelerate transport infrastructure with a focus on coastal regions, Wales, the North and the Midlands. Improving existing rail and road links.
    • Scrap net-zero and related subsidies.

Industry response

UKGBC – no response

RICS

    • Welcomes proposals to incentivise brownfield development through a fast-track planning system and tax incentives, ‘although quality and local infrastructure needs must be taken into consideration’.
    • Notes that Reform Party ‘are the only party who have developed specific policies to incentivise landlords to reform or enter the sector’, with a reversal of Section 24 tax changes which ‘many landlords have described as one of the biggest challenges to the sector’.
    • On scrapping the Renters Reform Bill: ‘This will likely come as little comfort to many renters without additional tenancy security and improvements in the quality of the property through the Decent Homes Standard.
    • On social housing, and the party’s plan to prioritise British nationals within the waiting list: …‘without a specific housing delivery target, it is unclear where and how the party plans to increase the supply of the stock’.

RIBA – no response

Tori Madine
Tori Madine
Tori is Account Director for our Built Environment client portfolio. She has spent many years working as a journalist and PR in the buildings arena. Since joining Content Coms, Tori has developed a particular interest and specialism in content and campaigns that drive sustainable specification, support ESG & accelerate decarbonisation.