The Liberal Democrat 2015 general election manifesto has promised to pump up housebuilding to levels last seen in the 1970s while imposing 21st century standards for energy efficiency
The LibDem party today said that it would set an annual target of 300,000 for the number of new homes to be built across the UK.
And it outlined plans for at least 10 new garden cities in England, with five of these linked by a new rail connection between Oxford and Cambridge.
The manifesto said: ‘For far too long Britain has built many fewer homes than we need. Unless we build enough to meet demand, year after year, we will find housing costs rise further out of reach.’
It said that it would set out a long-term plan within the first year of the new Parliament to set out how it would achieve its ambitious goal.
However, it said that a new government-backed Housing Investment Bank would provide long-term capital for major new settlements and help
attract finance for major house building projects.
The last year the UK built more than 300,000 homes was in 1977, according to official figures, with 314,200 homes build during that year.
The Liberal Democrats also signalled that a greater use of compulsory purchase orders could help to deliver land for new development, promising a review of the relevant legislation.
It also said it would pilot techniques to capture the increase in land values from the granting of planning permission, to help fund the new development drive.
In addition to the garden cities, the party would also encourage rural local authorities to follow the principles of garden cities in village or suburb development as part of growth plans.
Kate Henderson, chief executive of pressure group the Town and Country Planning Association, said the commitment to garden cities was positive.
But she warned: ‘There is no reference to how these garden cities or development will be brought forward. The garden city principles must be upheld in their perpetuity in any proposals to deliver the new settlements.’
On planning, local authorities would be required to make provision for 15 years’ of housing need, up from the current five.
The party also said that it would take action to improve the energy efficiency of new and existing houses.
‘Warming our homes is an essential part of the fight against climate change, and also vital to keep bills affordable. Energy prices in Britain are lower than the EU average but our bills are higher because our homes are so poorly insulated,’ it said.
Exemptions in the Zero Carbon Standard for new homes would be removed and extended to non-domestic buildings from 2019, it promised.
The party would also pass a Green Buildings Act to set new energy efficiency targets, including a ‘long-term ambition’ for every home to reach an energy rating of at least Band C by 2035.
It also pledged to introduce a programme of reopening smaller train stations as part of its transport offer.
RIBA executive director of communication and outreach, Gill Webber, responds:
On housing: ‘It is vital that the target of building 300,000 new homes doesn’t just become a focus on numbers. Good quality houses and effective infrastructure are vital to support new developments – whether we’re talking about garden cities or small sites in rural communities.’
On energy efficiency: ‘We welcome the party’s ambitious energy efficiency plans for the built environment. The RIBA believes that this will be best achieved through a national retrofit strategy for all building types that aligns existing retrofit policies and other related Government initiatives.’
On planning: ‘The desire to empower Local Authorities to collaboratively drive developments is welcomed, but the next Government should review the National Planning Policy Framework to ensure that it balances policies that support development with a need to build strong, sustainable communities.’