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What might the Tories have in store for architecture?

Following the Conservatives’ election victory, the AJ takes a look at what the party pledged for the built environment

Earlier today (8 May) the Tories succeeded in taking a narrow majority in the House of Commons, meaning David Cameron will lead the country for another five years.

As a result the party’s controversial plans to revive Margaret Thatcher’s right-to-buy scheme are set to become a reality.

Contained within the Tory’s manifesto, the proposals to bring back the scheme were widely slammed by the industry when they were announced in the party’s manifesto (see AJ 14.04.15).  

The policy would be paid for by forcing councils to sell off their most valuable properties from their remaining housing stock, which the party believes would raise around £4.5 billion a year.

New measures set to be introduced include an upscaling of the coalition’s Housing Zones programme to more than double the number of properties set to be delivered with local authorities playing a greater role in aiding the development of existing brownfield sites.

Local authorities would be required to ensure 90 per cent of suitable brownfield sites have planning permission for housing by 2020.

It plans to use these housing policies to build a further 400,000 new homes on brownfield sites while also doubling the number of self-build properties,

We are also likely to see an increase in free schools – the party pledged in its manifesto to open a further 500 free schools in the next five years but there was no confirmation of the extent of schools capital funding.

The profession had backed Labour to win. According to a poll carried out by the AJ, 35 per cent had said they were planning to vote for Ed Miliband’s party but Labour was not able to challenge the Conservative party after losing seats to SNP in Scotland.

It was also a difficult night for the Liberal Democrats with the party losing seats across the UK.

Conservative manifesto - key points

Schools: The party would ‘open at least 500 new free schools’ over the course of the next parliament, resulting in an additional 270,000 school places. The expansion of academies, studio schools and university technical colleges would also continue. The Conservatives pledge investment of ‘at least £7bn’ to provide good school places by 2020, but give no categoric schools capital commitments. In terms of general funding, the manifesto says: ‘On current pupil-number forecasts, there will be a real-terms increase in the schools budget in the next parliament.’

Housing: A pledge to build 200,000 starter homes exclusively for first-time buyers under 40, to be offered at a 20% discount to market rates. An additional 275,000 ‘affordable’ homes would be built by 2020. A £1bn ‘Brownfield Fund’ would be created to support development on previously-used sites. Designated Housing Zones would provide 95,000 new properties by 2020 – a significant increase on the ‘up to 45,000 homes’ expected to be delivered by the 28 pilot and prospective Housing Zones announced in last month’s budget. The party is also targeting a doubling in the number of self-build properties with a new ‘Right to Build’ offer for local people.

Right-to-Buy: The option to buy council properties currently enjoyed by local authority tenants would be extended to those renting housing association homes. Local authorities would be required to sell off their most valuable council homes when they become vacant to help fund the provision of replacement affordable homes.

Planning: The Conservatives would ‘ensure’ that local authorities have a register of brownfield sites within their bounds and that 90% of those sites that are considered ‘suitable’ would have planning permission for housing by 2020. The Consevatives would also ‘halt the spread’ of onshore wind farms by ending subsidies for them and changing the law to give local people a ‘final say’ on wind-farm applications.

Environment: Build 1,400 new flood defence schemes, protecting 300,000 homes. Provide stronger protection for natural landscapes, and the establishment of a ‘blue belt’ to protect marine habitats. New ‘pocket parks’ would also be created in towns and cities.

Readers' comments (6)

  • With Boris pushing hard to build the ridiculous 'green bridge', regardless of the implications, I wonder if we can expect more such cosy 'arrangements' to part-fund the construction of elitists follies at a time of increasing austerity (for some)?

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  • At least the foreign investors will still see the UK as a sound place to invest. That alone generates a huge amount of work at all levels in the building industry, not least that army of consultants now neceessary to tick all the boxes. The very threat of a socialist government hammered the pound and the stock exchange over the last few weeks. The constitutional issues including Scotalnd are the largest issues.

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  • Message to Robert Wakeham, Why is the "Green Bridge" ridiculous? It's an exciting addition to London and it's river

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  • Local authorities will be encouraged/obliged to look first at densification within what estates they still hold. As is demonstrated in Southwark & Lambeth this leads to them demolishing sound housing stock, socially classing their boroughs & engaging developers to build higher and denser. A third of new homes in London are sold, off plans to foreign investors, many of whom leave the property vacant or use it as a pied de terre. Scotland has outlawed right-to-buy and built as much public housing in the last 5 years as the rest of UK put together.

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  • To Marc Massin: I think that the 'green bridge' is ridiculous because it's intended to be more a private space than a public route, with restrictions on use that prevent cycling, prevent access 24/7, and reserve the right to close it for private functions.
    Despite this, Boris is helping finance it with public money via TfL (and to hell with the need for safe cycle routes).
    To add insult to injury, it's going to block vistas of this stretch of the Thames - and, I suspect, become used as eloquent testimony to the unacceptable face of Conservative government.

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  • "Local authorities would be required to sell off their most valuable council homes when they become vacant to help fund the provision of replacement affordable homes." - Thus accelerating and reinforcing the image of the remaining unloved (and therefore undervalued) council stock as the preserve of the poor, the unworthy, while the few remaining respectable council properties that haven't already been flogged are thrown into the arms of the same investors and trust-fundees who have caused such rampant inflation in the housing market already. Whatever happened to the Homes fit for Heroes ideal, to the idea that there's nothing wrong with living in a council house? There's only something wrong with not owning your own house when the whole economy that surrounds you leaves you behind if you don't have your life savings tied up in where you live, and thus have nothing to leave to your poor, trustfundless children.

    How about, instead of selling of the most valuable properties, there is a scheme to turn the least valuable properties over to private ownership, thus freeing up a genuinely affordable housing type to first-time buyers who will have incentive to invest money and effort into turning around these unloved buildings. Local councils likely will have far more money to spend on new buildings by shedding themselves of the liabilities these estates burden them with, than by letting the private sector skim the cream off the top of their portfolio.

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