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Election Digest: A myriad of manifestos


Sunak and Starmer went head to head in last week’s leaders’ debate, but neither did enough to truly claim victory after they came neck and neck in a poll.

However, recent days have been more like Dunkirk than D-Day for Sunak, after he went AWOL in Normandy.

Faux pas aside, party manifestos have dominated this week.

The Conservatives revved their launch at Silverstone while the Lib Dems unveiled their election hopes at Thorpe Park, leaving our ‘Eds in a spin… it’s been a rollercoaster week.

Even though the manifestos promise the world, we’ve faced several spurious promises on housing before, such as the 300,000-a-year housebuilding target. You’ll forgive our sector for being a bit cynical…

It’s not just us. The IFS’ director, Paul Johnson, said a lack of transparency on both sides is “frustrating [and it will be] really tough” for whoever wins.

This week, we lift the lid on the major built environment manifesto updates, explore what’s going on across the regions, and dive into what parties are saying about sustainability.

Manifesto moves

We’ve digested the parties’ manifestos to uncover the potential impact on the built environment…


Until now, Sunak’s housing and development pledges have been scant at best, but he’s thrown the policy kitchen sink at it this week.

The manifesto says they’ll create a “fast-track route through the planning system” to build 1.6 million homes over the next five years. That’s 20,000 more homes per year than their last target, which Gove heavily watered down. Will this new figure become ‘advisory’ too, we wonder?

The document includes plans for a “new and improved” Help to Buy scheme, a “cast-iron commitment” to protect the green belt and more clout for the infrastructure levy. It also includes details to unlock 100k homes by “abolishing the legacy EU nutrient neutrality rules”.

Liberal Democrats 

The Lib Dem manifesto features plans for 1.9m new homes over the next five years, the equivalent of 380k homes a year, of which 150k will be social homes. That’s more than the Conservatives’ new (and old) targets and 400k more than Labour.

Echoing Labour, Davey has pledged 10 new garden cities, however, his plan to deliver three new national parks across England is distinct, with many of the locations earmarked (e.g. Cotswolds, Mendips, Chilterns) happening to be in Lib Dem target areas – a coincidence?

The industry has largely welcomed the plans, which include ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ rules to maximise brownfield sites, more support for planning departments, a zero-carbon mandate for new homes and an energy upgrade retrofitting programme.

Green Party

The Green Party has pledged 150,000 new council homes, replacing right-to-buy with a new community scheme, introducing rent controls and ending no-fault evictions. The Party’s Right Homes, Right Place, Right Price Charter will require local authorities to spread out small developments and boost developer investment in health and transport. The party also plans to renationalise water, railways and energy companies.

Labour manifesto – announced tomorrow

Reform UK’s manifesto – 17 June

Local lowdown

East of England – Labour is making a push to take the Welwyn Hatfield from incumbent Grant Shapps, with candidate Andrew Lewin visiting the University of Hertfordshire to champion the University sector. The election hasn’t stopped the housing debate in Cambridgeshire, with CPRE’s local branch criticising plans to build up to 150,000 homes in the county by 2050.

London – As the election enters its final weeks, the Lib Dems look set to gain a resurgence in the South West of the capital.  Carshalton & Wallington and Sutton & Cheam are both constituencies high on the target list – alongside the three-party contest in Wimbledon. If opinion polls are correct, the Lib Dems would have more MPs in London than the Conservatives.

Midlands – YouGov’s election projections held a few surprises. Including Newark – the seat of the former housing secretary Robert Jenrick – which is among the most marginal in the country. That’s a seat where the Conservatives are defending a majority of over 20,000, perhaps a microcosm of the national picture.

North – You can tell a lot about how the Conservatives see their chances in the North by the decisions made with last-minute candidate nominations. A handful of northern MPs – including party chairman Richard Holden and former MP for NW Durham – were controversially parachuted to stand in safer seats down south, often against the wishes of their new local association.

South East – A distinct lack of safe seats sets the stage for several highly-contested campaigns. Kent is set to be a key battleground, with Labour looking to make significant gains from the Conservatives, who won 17/18 of the county’s seats in 2019. Meanwhile, the Lib Dems are holding onto a few existing seats in the region, such as Oxford West & Abingdon and Chesham & Amersham, looking to continue to ‘topple the blue wall’ through gains in Winchester, Eastbourne, Lewes and much of Surrey. 

South West – One impact of a general election is a re-jig of local authority personalities as councillors become MPs. In the Westcountry, several prominent councillors are standing for seats – Cllr Claire Young, leader of South Gloucestershire, Somerset’s Cllr Adam Dance and Wiltshire’s Cllr Sarah Gibson are just some of those running for seats they’re likely to win.

Sector spotlight – sustainability

We look at what the parties have to say on sustainability and the potential impact on the property sector.

What the parties are saying:

Labour – Despite watering down the previously committed £28bn green investment programme, Labour is pressing ahead with Green British Energy, a publicly owned green power energy company, which it hopes will reduce bills, create better jobs and deliver energy independence.

Labour’s net-zero commitment to government spending and clean power by 2030 will rely heavily on renewables, with solar and wind power playing a key role. However, planning regulations and local opposition will remain the biggest obstacles to success. 

On sustainable transport, we’ve seen the party’s outline plans for bus and train travel and they’ve said they’d set targets on modal shift. The party has also been open to planning reform to ‘Get Britain Building Again’, but what’s less clear is how this could be achieved through net-zero builds, without compromising nature restoration. 

Conservatives – The manifesto promised several large-scale infrastructure projects, including plans for two “small modular reactors” by speeding up planning and environmental approvals. They will also “work with industry to deliver existing projects at Hinkley Point and Sizewell” and create a gigawatt nuclear plant in North Wales.

The party announced new carbon capture clusters across North Wales, the North West, Teesside and the Humber, combined with commitments to treble offshore wind. However, solar energy support was distinctly lacking, with promises to “protect our best agricultural land from solar farms.”

Liberal Democrats – The Lib Dems’ plans range from tackling sewerage in rivers to improving air quality. They also aim to deliver net zero emissions by 2045 and have a target for 90% of our energy to come from renewables by 2030.

They say this will require a “rooftop solar revolution”, a social energy tariff and providing free insulation and heat pumps for those on low incomes.

The plans for new national parks could have significant repercussions for planning in areas where they’re touted, such as the Cotswold, Chilterns and the Mendips.

More powers and resources would be given to local councils for net zero strategies and establish citizens’ assemblies to give people ownership over decisions to tackle climate change.

Green Party – Twinned with a ‘Carbon Tax’ to phase out fossil fuels, the Party’s Charter for Homes says all new homes will need to meet Passivhaus standards, with solar panels and heat pumps where appropriate, combined with a £29bn investment to get homes to EPC B standards. There’s also a commitment for all homes to stop using fossil fuels, with wind providing 70% of the UK’s electricity by 2030.

Keep a beady eye out for…

  • Tomorrow – Labour’s manifesto launch
  • 17 June – slated date for Reform UK manifesto launch
  • 18 June – Voter registration deadline
  • 19 June – Deadline for postal vote applicants
  • 26 June – BBC leaders’ debate

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