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Election Digest: A bitter poll to swallow


Reform UK’s manifesto launch – or what Farage coined: ‘Our Contract with You’ – dominated much of the campaign trail this week.

Stronger Section 106 enforcements and incentivising innovation to speed up building through modular construction were featured as key policies. Then came the “strict limits on immigration are the only way to relieve the pressure on our housing” bit. What about increasing supply, Nigel?

Migration and housing are two very emotional, and as a result, easily exploitable topics. Channelling our inner Cilla Black… No “surprise, surprise” from Farage there, then.

If a recent Survation poll is to be believed – Reform could scoop seven parliamentary seats, compared with just 70 for the Conservatives.

That’s proper political apocalypse stuff and no doubt a bitter pill to swallow for Tory HQ, but how realistic is the prediction? Survation’s polls have been prescient in the past, after they correctly predicted Labour’s ‘Red Wall’ collapse in 2019…

It’s just over a fortnight until the election, and we’re shuffling closer to the edge of our seats. And, if these polls are to be believed, it looks like there’ll be a swathe of Conservative candidates losing theirs.

This week, we lift the lid on the major built environment updates, explore what’s going on across the regions and put infrastructure under the spotlight.

Concrete plans… Our top built environment updates for the week:

🧑‍🔬 – At yesterday’s ‘Creating a Scientific Superpower’ summit (hosted by the Oxford-Cambridge Supercluster Board), Science Minister Andrew Griffith admitted planning was a ‘barrier’ to delivering the infrastructure needed to support the sector, although he blamed local authorities for this, rather than any government legislation.
🗓️ – Labour’s manifesto has put meat on the bone of its planning promises. From the grey belt plans to new town pledges, Planning Resource summarised the top 20 things the sector should watch out for.
🏡 – In the likelihood of a decisive electoral victory for Labour, several party figures have suggested an updated National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) could go out for consultation even before the summer recess.
👏 – And in a scathing rebuke of Reform, The Conversation says there’s no evidence of widespread opportunism among migrants taking advantage of a lax housing allocation system. Instead, they say, it’s created political oxygen allowing politicians to distract from the real causes of the housing crisis.

Local lowdown

  • East of England – Reform’s campaign saw Farage address 800 people in Clacton last night. Across the region, Conservatives are now campaigning solely in their own seats instead of helping in marginals, with Sunak himself touring around 26,000 majority seats. The Lib Dems are seeking wins around South Cambridgeshire and Labour are on the march in Norfolk, with the Conservative stronghold of Great Yarmouth one to watch closely.
  • London – Although a key policy in Labour’s manifesto, it’ll be down to the Mayor of London to lead the charge on tackling the housing crisis in the capital, although many boroughs have already started housebuilding independently, working with the private sector. A major issue for younger voters, it’ll be interesting to see if housing attracts even greater attention in the run-up to polling day.
  • Midlands – The Midlands has become a hotbed for solar in recent years, so Labour’s manifesto launch will certainly have piqued interest. Whilst the Conservatives have used their campaign to double down on their anti-solar stance of “protecting quality farmland”, Labour has boldly committed to making the UK a “clean energy superpower” if they win. This shift from the government would be a welcome boost to the region’s growing solar industry.
  • North – With each week, things look bleaker and bleaker for the Conservatives in the North. A lack of popularity, paired with boundary changes, is a dangerous combination and it could hit the party hard in traditional northern strongholds. Places like Hexham and North Northumberland have never returned Labour members, but both are the subject of fierce campaigning from the party who feel they have a chance to make history on 4 July.
  • Scotland – The SNP’s manifesto launch – with independence a central theme – will allow Swinney to garner much-needed air time, although Scotland’s focus will no doubt quickly shift to tonight’s Euros game. Despite this, polls show Anas Sarwar’s Scottish Labour Party can still expect a swathe of SNP seats moving to Labour.
  • South East – The Lib Dems are on the attack in Surrey, in the hope of scooping Michael Gove’s old seat of Surrey Heath and ousting Jeremy Hunt in Godalming & Ash. Despite expected losses in all counties, it’s expected the South East will hold up better than most, meaning an even bolder shift in the power balance of the party towards the region.
  • South West – Sunak was in Devon this week spending time on a fishing boat and trying to feed sheep in North Devon, which ran away from him. North Devon has been Conservative since 1992 but polling suggests the electorate is also running in the opposite direction. Polls suggest one could walk from Land’s End to Gloucester without stepping foot in a Conservative seat. Labour is predicted to take rural Westcountry seats, and The Lib Dems are doing more than just winning back the seats they used to call home – Survation is even suggesting Reform could win in Exeter.
  • Wales – Although Labour is expecting to sweep the floor, Plaid Cymru’s Rhun ap Iorwerth has been making the media rounds this week to attack Labour’s plans for devolution, which he believes shows Welsh Labour has no bite. He’s also called for additional £4bn funding from central government following the scrapping of HS2,

Sector spotlight – This week, we look at what the parties have to say about the future of infrastructure and the potential impact on the built environment:

  • Labour – Whether reining in water companies, rolling out full 5G by 2030, or speeding up the delivery of labs, battery storage plants and digital infrastructure, the party’s plans will have a sweeping impact on the built environment.
    However, to get started, Rachel Reeves said planning reform would be central to “meet the needs of a modern economy”. As a result, Labour would develop a decade-long infrastructure strategy to develop investment certainty alongside a new National Infrastructure and Service Transformation Authority to ensure delivery.
    The headline-grabbing Great British Energy and ‘clean energy superpower’ targets by 2030 would undoubtedly require an overhaul of our energy infrastructure. A new Energy Independence Act would be put in place to deliver plans to double onshore wind, quadruple offshore wind and triple solar power.
  • Conservatives – The party’s flagship levelling-up policy featured prominently in the manifesto – with funding for high streets and more devolution. The move would usher in deeper devolved powers for areas including Tees Valley.
    Sunak outlined plans to speed up signing off major infrastructure projects to one year from four, alongside an effort to minimise costs by implementing faster changes to consented projects.
    The document also outlined £1.1bn for the Green Industries Growth Accelerator, alongside reallocating £8bn for scrapping HS2’s second phase, which would be used for roads and filling potholes instead.
  • Liberal Democrats – Like Labour, the Lib Dems’ net zero targets will require an overhaul of our energy grid. With plans for 90% of our energy to come from renewables by 2030, the party would speed up the transition by investing in battery technology to improve reliability.
    The manifesto focused heavily on health and communities and outlined plans for new hospitals, affordable housing and schools. Notably, the party has said it would also stop the expansion of airports for the foreseeable future.
  • Green Party – The Green Party has committed to investing billions to supercharge a net-zero green economic transformation, decades ahead of the current 2050 target. £40bn would be spent shifting to a greener economy, with investments in more efficient energy storage and distribution. They’ve said they’d phase out nuclear and have bet big on wind, with a target for 70% of the UK’s power to come from wind turbines by 2030.
    They’ve also promised to ensure large-scale developments are always supported by new infrastructure such as GP surgeries, bus services, cycling and walking networks, alongside extra places at nurseries and schools, accompanied by the additional investment needed to enhance local services.

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