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Election 2019: What are the main parties’ plans for the built environment?

Election 2019 graphics 5
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The outcome of today’s General Election will have a major impact on the fortunes of the profession – so what are the main parties saying they will do about housing, building regulations and carbon emissions? 

One party has pledged to use the planning system to incentivise sustainable materials. Another will ‘expect’ all new streets to be lined with trees. And another has made no mention of Grenfell or fire safety in its manifesto. To find out which of the four main British political parties are pledging what, dig into our manifesto overview:

How will parties address climate change through their built environment policies?

Lib Dems The party has pledged proposed free retrofits for low-income homes and a reduction of VAT on home insulation. The Lib Dems have also said they will tie the amount of Stamp Duty Land Tax to the energy rating of a property as part of a drive to make homes more energy-efficient. And by 2021 under a Lib Dem government, all new buildings will have to be zero-carbon. The party says all new building produced after 2025 buildings will be built to a Passivhaus standard. The Lib Dems have also said they will pilot a project ‘to determine the best future mix of zero-carbon heating solutions’.

Labour Labour is proposing to upgrade ‘almost all’ of the UK’s 27 million homes to the ‘highest energy-efficient standards’ by 2030. It has also pledged to bring in a ‘zero-carbon standard’ for all new homes.

Greens The Green Party wants to improve the insulation of every home and to ‘deep retrofit’ 10 million homes by 2030. It says all renovations to roofs, windows, doors or external walls should reach Certificate A energy performance rating. The party also wants to ‘transform’ planning so that all new buildings are built to Passivhaus standard.

The Greens have promised to ensure new developments are designed so residents ‘do not need cars to live a full life’. This means residents should have pedestrian access to local shops and schools or be located within 1km of a station or 500m of a ‘high-frequency’ bus service.

And the party also wants to roll-out solar panels to about one million homes a year and to use heat networks to spread renewable energy. And, lastly, it wants to change the planning system to incentivise renovation of old buildings and the use of sustainable materials.

Conservatives The incumbent party has pledged to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 by investing in ‘clean energy solutions and green infrastructure’. Specifically, the party says it will put £500 million into helping energy-intensive industries move to ‘low-carbon techniques’. However, it does not say which industries it considers to be ‘energy-intensive’. The built environment may or may not be one of them.

What have the parties promised on housing?

Conservatives The Tories’ big housing promise is to deliver a million homes over the next five years. The party has also committed to renewing its Affordable Homes Programme in Spring and enabling councils to use developers’ contributions to discount homes by a third in perpetuity for local residents who could not otherwise buy in their area. The party also said it would ‘expect’ all new streets to be tree-lined. 

Labour Jeremy Corbyn’s party has promised to deliver 100,000 council homes a year by 2024, and another 50,000 ‘genuinely affordable’ housing association homes a year over the same period.

It will also try to crack down on people using property merely as an investment, by introducing a levy on overseas companies buying homes and giving councils powers to tax properties which are empty for more than year.

It will reform Help to Buy to help first-time buyers on ‘ordinary’ incomes. But it will also ‘take urgent action’ to protect private renters through open-ended tenancies and ‘new [and] binding’ minimum standards. It will create a licensing system for landlords and ‘tougher sanctions for landlords who flout the rules’. It will also cap rents with inflation and give cities powers to cap rents even further.

Lib Dems The Lib Dems have vowed to create at least 100,000 homes for social rent each year, with the total number of units (private and public) reaching 300,000 a year. They have also promised to ‘devolve full control’ of Right to Buy to local councils and to introduce a new Rent to Own model, whereby social housing tenants buy their property over a 30-year period. For renters, the party has also said it will protect against rogue landlords through mandatory licensing and promote longer tenancies with inflation-linked annual rent increases.

Greens The Green Party says it would create at least 100,000 homes for social rent a year through retrofitting existing buildings as well as building new. It also wants to see councils decide their own housing targets, so they can ‘strike a balance’ between housing need and preservation of the environment. It would support councils to set more affordable rent for social housing by pegging the rate to average local rents. The Greens would also add rent controls on private tenancies, so rent prices reflect local income. And the party would give communities the first chance to buy local land coming to market by extending Scotland’s Community Right to Buy scheme to England and Wales. 

What are the parties’ policies on building regulation and fire safety?

Conservative Boris Johnson’s party has repeated its promise, first made last December, to legislate for all the recommendations in the Hackitt Review, published in May last year.

Labour Jeremy Corbyn’s party has vowed to introduce a £1 billion ‘Fire Safety Fund’ to retrofit sprinklers and other safety measures to all high-rise council and housing association tower blocks. It has also said it will introduce new mandatory building standards which would be ‘inspected and enforced’ by the fire brigade. And it has pledged to scrap permitted development rights in the case of office-to-resi conversions.

Lib Dems The Lib Dems have also said they would scrap permitted development rights for converting offices to homes. However, the party does not address fire safety in its manifesto.

Greens Most of the Green Party’s pledges relate to energy efficiency and reducing carbon, but it does promise to ‘update the fire safety regulations relating to the use of all types of insulation in buildings’.

Dec 19 election survey

Dec 19 election survey

AJ reader poll - sample taken earlier this month

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