The Liberal Democrats and UKIP have today published election manifestos with both documents featuring significant housing content.
Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg pitched himself as a superior option to hold the balance of power after 7th May compared with UKIP or the Scottish Nationalist Party, describing every additional Lib Dem elected to Parliament as ‘a barrier between Nigel Farage and Alex Salmond and the door of 10 Downing Street’.
Chapter 7 of the Liberal Democrats manifesto, sets out ‘a promise for more’ building on the party’s ‘record of delivery’ in Government. For instance, having helped restore house building from record lows to ‘nearly 150,000 per year’, the Lib Dems would ‘set an ambitious goal to build 300,000 homes a year including in 10 new Garden Cities’.
Garden Cities and other new settlements
The manifesto includes a pledge to create ‘at least ten’ new Garden Cities in England, in areas where there is local support. Local authorities would also be encouraged to follow similar principles on a smaller scale to develop garden villages or suburbs.
Up to five new major settlements would be developed along a “Garden Cities Railway” between Oxford and Cambridge.
A new Housing Investment Bank would provide long-term capital for major new settlements.
Government commissioning of new housing
The manifesto includes a commitment to directly commission homes for sale and rent to fill the gap when the market alone fails to deliver sufficient numbers.
Liberal Democrats would require local authorities, working with neighbouring councils to make a plan for 15 years of housing need and identify sites for new homes accordingly. Housing needs assessments would be altered to respond to price signals rather than simply being calculated according to need.
The party would restrict redress mechanisms for developers to appeal against planning decisions which are deemed to be in line with the local plan and prevent planning appeals coming forward on the basis of challenges to the 15-year masterplan. On the other hand, the Lib Dems would create a Community Right of Appeal in cases where planning decisions are deemed to have gone against the approved – or emerging – local plan.
The concept of ‘landscape scale planning’ would be introduced to ensure new developments promote walking, cycling, car sharing and public transport.
Planning authorities would be enabled to:
Attach planning conditions to new developments to ensure homes are occupied rather than ‘bought to leave’
Levy up to 200% Council Tax on second homes
‘Pilot new planning conditions to ensure local communities benefit from increased housing supply.’
Housing for older people
The manifesto states that all local authority areas would be expected to plan for the needs of older people and work with local authorities would be taken forward to help people who wish to ‘right size’ their housing in later life.
The Liberal Democrats manifesto can be read here. The section on housing begins on page 93.
Brownfield and town centre sites would be ‘prioritised’ but permitted development rights for converting offices to residential use would be brought to an end.
Local authorities would be required to maintain a register of people who want a self-build plot. There would also be ‘affordable land’ plots on which self-builders could take a long-term lease at an affordable rent to build or commission a home.
UKIP’s housing proposals focus on ‘protection of the countryside’ and incentives for development on brownfield sites which the party claims could accommodate 2.5m homes ‘if developers were less reluctant to take advantage of this rich source of land’.
The manifesto includes a pledge to remove barriers to building on brownfield sites in order to pursue an aim of building one million homes on previously used land by 2025. To do so, in government, UKIP would give the Environment Agency the task of compiling a National Brownfield Sites Register and provide a remediation assessment where appropriate. Developers would then be offered incentives to build new homes on such sites:
Grants of up to £10,000 per unit to carry out essential remediation work,
A grant to cover the cost of indemnity insurance
New properties on registered brownfield sites would be exempt from Stamp Duty on first sale, up to £250,000
The costings for the policy have been reviewed by the Centre for Economics and Business Research on behalf of UKIP with its assessment that the financial modelling on the Stamp Duty exemptions and remediation and indemnity grants ‘seem reasonable’.
Describing the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) as ‘disastrous for the environment’, the manifesto includes a pledge to replace the NPPF with new national planning guidelines that ‘prioritise brownfield sites for new housing and genuinely protect the green belt’ while eliminating ‘government-imposed’ minimum housing numbers.
UKIP claim that the current NPPF has ‘given developers the green light to build just about anywhere’. To support communities in their efforts to fight against ‘inappropriate developments’, the party would:
Free local authorities from government-imposed housing numbers
Reverse current policies of facilitating large-scale rural residential developments
Promote smaller 6-12 unit developments in rural areas to extend villages
Encourage councils to require a proportion of self-build plots on large developments
Allow large-scale developments to be overturned by a binding local referendum triggered by the signatures of 5% of electors
Merge planning and building control departments within local authorities to reduce bureaucracy
Help to Buy and Mortgages
In relation to Help to Buy (and Right to Buy), UKIP would require that the nationality of purchasers is registered and prevent any non-UK citizens from accessing the scheme.
The Party would also legislate to allow mortgages to become inheritable in order to make it easier for older borrowers to purchase a home with a mortgage.
Affordable housing supply would be increased by UKIP through the identification of surplus local and central government land which could be released for affordable developments, and a relaxation of planning regulations for the conversion of some commercial and office space to residential uses.
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