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General election: What could a Tory and DUP coalition mean for the profession?

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With the Conservatives moving swiftly to try and form a coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the AJ explores what this could mean for the profession

The proposed marriage between the Conservatives (318 seats) and DUP (10) would form a only slim majority in parliament. As a result this coalition will be hard-pressed to get legislation - and indeed its desired conditions for Brexit - through parliament. 

Making a statement in Downing Street today, prime minister Theresa May said the ’Conservative and Unionist party…provide certainty and lead Britain forward at this critical time for our country’. 

She added that she would ’build a country in which no one and no community is left behind’.

Although the UK will need to wait and see what the terms of the new coalition government are, the AJ has taken a look at both parties’ 2017 election manifestos. 

The Conservative Party 2017 election manifesto

The Conservative Party extended an arm to UK profession in its manifesto, saying the country boasted ’the finest architects and planners in the world’. The manifesto adds that, in light of this, it is ‘unacceptable’ that working families should have to live in ‘substandard developments’. 

In the document, the Tory party reaffirms its commitment to building one million homes by the end of 2020, adding that it will build half a million more by 2022.

The manifesto states that the Tories will encourage modern methods of construction; give councils powers to intervene where developers do not act on their planning permissions; and diversify housebuilders in the UK.

In the February housing white paper, communities secretary Sajid Javid said the party would diversify housebuilding through its Accelerated Construction programme, which involved partnering with small and medium sized building companies. 

And, while the Conservatives renewed promises in the 2017 manifesto to invest in HS2, the Northern Powerhouse and expand Heathrow, it left out a commitment to building Crossrail 2.

This contrasts with the Tories’ commitment to ‘push forward with plans for Crossrail 2’ in their 2015 manifesto. 

The party also outlined plans in its 2017 manifesto to raise the cost of hiring foreign workers in order to cut net migration into the UK

On skills and productivity, the document backs plans to launch a £23bn national productivity and investment fund, as well as investing in making the UK a world leader in driverless technologies. 

The party said that, for residential developments, it would move to support mansion blocks, mews houses and terraced streets, and away from tower blocks.

The Conservative Party manifesto also pledges to

  • Help housing associations provide more specialist housing
  • Introduce Council Housing Deals with pro-development local authorities to help them build more social housing
  • Reform compulsory purchase orders to make them easier and less expensive for councils
  • Work with private and public sector house builders to capture the increase in land value created

The DUP 2017 election manifesto

The DUP has no mention of housing, architecture or design quality in its 2017 election manifesto.

Instead, the party has heavily focused on the Brexit negotiations in its manifesto, with a 30-strong list of objectives and priorities for what it hopes to achieve.

Having strongly supported leaving the European Union, the DUP states that the new governments needs to ’capitalise on the trade opportunities that the UK leaving the EU will present’.

The DUP adds that it wants the rights of British citizens in the EU and those from EU member states living in Northern Ireland safeguarded; the Common Travel Area to be maintained; progress on new free trade deals with the rest of the world; and comprehensive free trade and customs agreement with the European Union.

The party also wants UK wide skills and infrastructure funds to be established with an emphasis on regional specialisations; arrangements to facilitate ease of movement of people, goods and services; and a fair share for Northern Ireland from dividends from leaving the EU.

The DUP manifesto also wants to achieve from the Brexit negotiations

  • Establish Northern Ireland as a hub for trade from Irish Republic into the broader UK market
  • Ensure ease of trade with the Irish Republic and throughout the European Union
  • The ability for Northern Ireland to opt-in to EU funds where proven to be cost-effective and add value
  • Continue a positive, ongoing relationship with European Union in keeping with Article 8 of Lisbon Treaty


Roger Hawkins, partner at Hawkins\Brown

The majority return for the Tories means the housing market reforms proposed in the Labour manifesto will not happen. This dashes the hopes of the rising generation for investment in council housing and a mature, stable private rented sector with high design standards. 

The absence of Crossrail 2 from either the Conservative manifesto or the last budget generates concern in the industry that this necessary and overdue piece of infrastructure for the south east might not proceed. The long awaited arrival of Crossrail 1 next year amply demonstrates the acute shortage of capacity in the region’s transport network.

The construction industry should be concerned about the implications of a ’hard Brexit’ on skills availability for both design and construction. The retreat of a large, skilled European labour force from building sites across Britain will be catastrophic for costs and schedules. A future funding crisis in the higher education sector, resulting from the withdrawal of students, will not only halt investment in University estates but lead to a loss of teaching skills, particularly in science and technical education.

Ian Rudolph, practice director, Marks Barfield Architects

The Conservative majority may secure investor confidence with stability in the short term, but their stance on a ’hard’ Brexit or ’no deal’ could weaken confidence in the future. Free movement of people helps the construction industry and the government will have to achieve this to have any credibility. House building, I believe, will continue but we need good quality social housing to solve the immediate need, perhaps with a fair share in council ownership.

Earle Arney, chief executive of Arney Fender Katsalidis

Following today’s Conservative win, I look forward to their pledges being enacted. The need for more homes does not need reiterating and density is very much required if we’re to deliver what’s needed in the limited space available.

It would be even better to hear politicians talk about density not just as a necessity, though, but a benefit. Increased density can enhance cities: the character of cities will improve with increased density. 

We also need to see the government really get behind solutions such as PRS and modular construction, with supportive policies.

What worries me about the Conservative win, meanwhile, is the party’s complete failure to provide adequate assurance for EU nationals living in the UK and our industry’s future ability to recruit from the huge pool of architectural talent that is the EU. With reports suggesting that one third of London’s architects come from other EU countries, the new government needs to take action on this urgently.

Ian Slover, project director at retail architect Sybarite

While a win has been secured for the Conservative and DUP coalition, the outlook for the industry is still unclear ahead of Brexit negotiations. Sybarite is supporting the export of British design around the world and our aim is to continue nurturing the best of national expertise as well as attract the top international talent. 

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