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24 Apr
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Election 2015: Planning, development and housing according to the Lib Dems

On 15th April, Nick Clegg launched the Liberal Democrat's manifesto for the 2015 General Election.

Titled ‘Stronger Economy. Fairer Society. Opportunity for Everyone.’ the document contains a wealth of policy pledges which relate to topic areas including planning, development, housing and infrastructure. Framing the election as a choice between him, Farage or Salmond, Nick Clegg battled through power outages to deliver his party's manifesto. But does it deliver or like the powercut that hit his manifesto launch, does it leave potential voters in the dark?

This blog sets out the key pledges which relate to planning, transport infrastructure, green infrastructure, housing, make housing more affordable, water related pledges and rural communities.

Planning

  • Build on the success of City Deals and Growth Deals to devolve more power and resources to groups of Local Authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships.
  • Aim to increase the number of Neighbourhood, Community and Parish Councils.
  • Protect community assets like pubs by bringing forward a Community Right to Buy and ensure planning permission is required to convert a pub into alternative uses.
  • Require councils to maintain a 15 year housing land supply.
  • Create a Community Right to Appeal in cases where planning decisions go against the approved local plan, or an emerging Local Plan that has undergone substantive consultation.
  • Not allow developers to appeal against planning decisions that are in-line with the local plan.
  • Not allow planning appeals solely on the basis of challenges to the 15 year housing land supply.
  • Improve housing needs assessments to ensure they respond to demand, including through price signals rather than simply need, and segment more effectively the demand from different kinds of household, including high-quality shared accommodation for young people and older people with age-appropriate housing.
  • Require Local Authorities to keep a register of people who want a self-build plot in the local area and plan to meet demand for these plots, including through ‘affordable land’ – plots on which self-builders can take a long-term lease at an affordable rent and build or commission a home.
  • Update planning law to introduce the concept of ‘landscape scale planning’ and ensure new developments promote walking, cycling, car sharing and public transport, and improve rather than diminish access to green spaces.
  • Prioritise development on brownfield and town centre sites and bring to an end the permitted development rights for converting offices to residential.
  • Enable Local Authorities to attach planning conditions to new developments to ensure homes are occupied to tackle the growth of ‘buy to leave empty’ investments from overseas in property hotspots like London and levy up to 200% Council Tax on second homes where they judge this to be appropriate.
  • Review the Homes and Communities Agency’s grant programmes to simplify and streamline the process and enable more innovation.
  • Allow Local Authorities more flexibility to borrow to build affordable housing, including traditional council housing, and devolve full control of the Right to Buy.
  • Scrap plans to exempt smaller housing development schemes from their obligation to provide affordable homes.
  • Update construction and planning standards to futureproof buildings against higher summer temperatures.
  • Encourage onshore wind farms in appropriate locations, helping meet our climate targets at least cost. End ideologically motivated interference in local planning decisions for wind farms by Government Ministers.

Housing

  • Set an ambitious goal to build 300,000 homes a year, including in 10 new Garden Cities in areas where homes are needed most.
  • Promote up to five major new settlements along a Garden Cities Railway between Oxford and Cambridge.
  • Set ambitious targets for development on unwanted public sector sites through the Homes and Communities Agency, with Local Authorities given new powers to ensure development happens on any unused site in which the public sector has an interest.
  • A review of Compulsory Purchase legislation to facilitate site assembly, including for Garden Cities. The Liberal Democrats would also pilot techniques for capturing the increase in land values from the granting of planning permission, helping to deliver Garden Cities.
  • Introduce a government commissioning programme to boost house building towards the 300,000 target; where the market alone fails to deliver sufficient numbers, government agencies will directly commission homes for sale and rent to fill the gap. This direct approach is already being taken in Cambridgeshire.
  • Provide a new government-backed Housing Investment Bank to provide long-term capital for major new settlements and help attract finance for major house building projects.
  • Remove exemptions in the Zero Carbon Standard for new homes, increasing the standard steadily and extending it to non-domestic buildings from 2019. Promote the development of off-site manufacturing techniques, which have been shown to improve energy performance of buildings.
  • Pass a new Green Buildings Act to set new energy efficiency targets, including a long ambition for every home to reach at least an energy rating of Band C by 2035.
  • Improve the standard of private rented and social housing, requiring these homes to be upgraded to Band C by 2027.

Transport and Infrastructure

  • Develop a comprehensive plan to electrify the majority of the UK rail network, reopen smaller stations, restore twin-track lines to major routes and proceed with HS2, as the first stage of a high-speed rail network to Scotland.
  • Invest in major transport improvements and infrastructure by:
  1. Delivering the Transport for the North strategy
  2. Developing more modern, resilient links to and within the South West
  3. Completing East-West rail, connecting up Oxford and Cambridge and catalysing major new housing development
  4. Ensuring London’s transport infrastructure is improved
  • Work to encourage further private sector investment in rail freight terminals and rail-connected distribution parks.
  • Pass a new Green Transport Act including a National Plan to improve dramatically Britain’s air quality by 2020. The National Air Quality Plan for consultation will include new incentives for local schemes that cut transport-related pollution and encourage walking and cycling.
  • To promote innovation and greener transport choices by methods including supporting options for an intercity cycleway along the HS2 route.
  • Give new powers to Local Authorities and communities to improve transport in their areas, including the ability to introduce network-wide ticketing like in London, and encourage them to support light and ultra-light rail schemes.

Green Infrastructure

  • Expand accessible green space with new National Nature Parks chosen by local communities.
  • Pass a Nature Act to put the Natural Capital Committee (NCC) on a statutory footing, set natural capital targets.
  • Introduce a fuller Right to Roam and a new designation of National Nature Parks to protect up to a million acres of accessible green space valued by local communities.
  • Place the management of public forests on a sustainable footing, in line with the recommendations of the Independent Panel on Forestry.
  • Tackle wildlife and environmental crime with increased enforcement of environmental regulations by all relevant authorities and higher penalties to ensure environmental crime is not a financial risk worth taking.
  • Bring forward a package of measures to protect bees and other pollinators, including legal protection for bumblebee nests.
  • Introduce incentives to help everyone invest in energy efficiency.
  • Reform the Green Deal ‘pay as you save’ scheme into a new Green Homes Loan Scheme, funding renewable heat and electricity alongside energy efficiency.
  • Boost community energy efficiency by empowering the Green Investment Bank to develop innovative financial products for whole street or district-wide energy efficiency retrofits

Make housing more affordable

  • Provide New Rent to Own homes where your monthly payments steadily buy you a stake in the property.
  • Encourage affordable housing providers – both Councils and Housing Associations – to innovate, including using the development of homes for sale or market rent to help subsidise new affordable homes. The Liberal Democrats will refocus the Vacant Building Credit so it only applies to properties that have been vacant for an extended period.
  • Introduce a new Intermediate Housing Fund to fund intermediate housing products, including:
  1. Affordable Rent homes, at up to 80% of local market rent
  2. Shared Ownership homes, where customers buy a proportion of the home and pay an affordable rent for the rest
  3. A new Rent to Own model where monthly payments steadily accrue the tenant a percentage stake in the property, owning it outright after 30 years.
  • Introduce a new Help to Rent scheme to provide government-backed tenancy deposit loans for all first-time renters under 30.

Water Related

  • Work with local government to review the governance of flood list and land drainage, including the role of Internal Drainage Boards, and introduce high standards for flood resilience for buildings and infrastructure in flood risk areas.
  • Increase the uptake of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems to maximise value for money for the taxpayer.
  • Designate an ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas with appropriate management by 2020.

Rural Communities

  • Develop the Community Budgets model for use in rural areas to combine services, encouraging the breaking down of boundaries between different services. This will help keep rural services like GP surgeries, pharmacies, post offices and libraries open by enabling them to cooperate, share costs and co-locate in shared facilities.
  • Work with Local Authorities to integrate transport networks in rural areas, building on the work of Liberal Democrat Ministers’’ Total Transport pilot.

Your Thoughts

Now over to you: what your views on the Lib Dem proposals? Do they present a serious case or are they simply a way to court votes on popular issues? We always want to hear what you have to say so fire us a tweet or leave a comment below.

And if you're wondering how the General Election might affect your plans for commercial or residential development – be sure to get in touch with us directly today. 

Images used courtesy of Jonathan Rolande and Ministry of Defence on Flickr.

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