Election 2015: Planning, infrastructure, development. Who’s promising what?
In the run-up to the 2015 General Election, issues related to housing, infrastructure and planning have been something of a political hot potato.
To help you cut through the spin, in the first of our election blog series, I’ve scoured the manifestos of both the Labour and Conservative parties and pinned down exactly what policy promises they've made regarding development in the UK. This blog will not only provide you with the manifesto pledges which relate to house building, but also wider issues from transport infrastructure to the bureaucracy of planning, from garden cities to bees!
On Monday 13th April 2015, Ed Miliband took to the Old Granada Studios in Manchester to launch the Labour Party's Manifesto. The title: 'Britain only succeeds when working people succeed. This is a plan to reward hard work, share prosperity and build a better Britain'.
I was surprised by the minimal mention of issues related to planning; there were only two mentions of the word 'planning' throughout. Nevertheless I have pulled together some of the key Labour pledges with regards to the industry. These include:
- Ensuring 200,000 homes per annum are delivered by 2020
- Helping first-time buyers by giving local authorities the power to give first-call to first time buyers on new homes in areas of housing growth
- Supporting the construction of HS2 and taking more action to improve and expand rail links across the North to boost its regional economies. A Labour government would support long-term investment in strategic roads, address the neglect of local roads, and promote cycling
- Setting up an independent National Infrastructure Commission to assess how best to meet Britain’s future infrastructure needs
- Bringing in an English Devolution Act, which will transfer £30 billion of funding to city and county regions, along with new powers over economic development, skills, employment, housing and business support. This will include local transport systems so that in future, local bodies can integrate trains, buses, trams and cycling into a single network. A Labour government would enable city and county regions to retain 100 per cent of additional business rates raised from growth in their area
- To give Councils the power to require particular types of shops to apply for planning permission, allowing them to restrict the number of payday lenders and other shops that are clustering on a single high street. Communities would be able to review betting shop licenses in their area and reduce the number of fixed-odds betting terminals in existing betting shops – or ban them entirely – in response to local concerns
Two days later on Wednesday 15th April, with a few more mentions of planning (14 in fact), David Cameron launched the Conservative manifesto. The manifesto is titled ‘Strong Leadership. A clear economic plan. A brighter, more secure future’. Some of the key pledges pertinent to planning and development include:
- Building affordable homes including 200,000 Starter Homes which will be sold at 20 per cent discount and will be built exclusively for first time buyers under the age of 40
- The introduction of a new Help to Buy ISA to support people who are working hard to save up for a deposit for their first home. A ten per cent deposit on an average home costs £15,000, so if one puts in up to £12,000, the government will put in up to £3,000 more. A 25 per cent top-up is equivalent to saving a deposit from your pre-tax – effectively making it a tax cut for first-time buyers
- Delivering a further 275,000 homes by 2020
- Offering 10,000 new homes to rent at below market rates to help people save for a deposit
- Extending the Right to Buy to tenants in Housing Associations to enable more people to buy a home of their own
- Creating a Brownfield Fund to unlock homes on brownfield land for additional housing
- Doubling the number of custom-built and self-built homes by 2020 and to take forward a new Right to Build, requiring councils to allocate land to local people to build or commission their own home, as is currently possible in much of Europe
- To require local authorities to have a register of land which is available, and ensure 90 per cent of suitable public-owned brownfield sites have planning permission for housing by 2020
- Investing £13 billion in transport in the north
- Investing in the A1, M62, M1 and A555 link road
- Investing £50 billion to build HS2 and develop HS3 to join up with the north
- Improving connections to the South West with major investment in the M5, A358, A30, as well as electrifying the Great Western Main Line
- Setting aside £5.2 billion for the upgrading of the M1 and M6 and electrifying of the Midland Main Line
- Improving rail connections to East Anglia delivering ‘Norwich in 90 minutes’ and ‘Ipswich in 60 minutes’ and upgrade roads including the A11 and A47
- Investing £38 billion in our railway network in the five years to 2019
- Pushing forward with plans for Crossrail 2, a new rail route running through London and connecting Surrey and Hertfordshire
- Providing rural Britain with near-universal superfast broadband by the end of the next Parliament and securing the future of 3,000 rural Post Offices
- Legislating to deliver the devolution of powers in Greater Manchester, paving the way for a directly elected Mayor
- To pilot councils retaining 100 per cent of growth in business rates so they have the benefit of decisions that boost growth locally (set to be trialled in Greater Manchester, Cheshire East and Cambridgeshire)
- Devolving further powers over skills spending and planning to the Mayor of London
- Encouraging the 1,400 communities engaged in neighbourhood planning to complete the process and assist others in drawing up their own plans
- A pledge to strengthen the Community Right to Bid and set up a Pub Loan Fund to enable community groups to obtain small loans to pay for feasibility work, lawyers’ fees, or materials for refurbishment
- Extending the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme, introducing a new Help to Buy ISA, extend the Right to Buy to Housing Association tenants and making sure that when it comes to planning decisions, local people are in charge
- Enabling local people have more say on local planning and let them vote on local issues
- Supporting locally-led garden cities and towns in places where communities want them, such as Ebbsfleet and Bicester
- Creating a new London Land Commission, with a mandate to identify and release all surplus brownfield land owned by the public sector
- To fund Housing Zones to transform brownfield sites into new housing, which will create 95,000 new homes
- Spending £3 billion from the Common Agricultural Policy to enhance England’s countryside over the next five years with a view to cleaning up rivers and lakes, protecting stonewalls and hedges, and helping bees to thrive
- Ensuring public forests and woodlands are kept in trust for the nation and plant another 11 million trees
- To protect the Green Belt, and maintain national protections for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and other environmental designations
- Building 1,400 new flood defence schemes to protect 300,000 homes
What do you think?
Election promises are freely given, but frequently unfulfilled. What do you make of the parties' manifestos and the viability of their proposals?
If you've got anything to share – be sure to leave us a comment below or get in touch via Twitter – we always love to hear what you have to say.