Reaction to Liberal Democrat’s housing policies

The Liberal Democrats have become the first of the major parties to launch their full election manifesto at an event in London. However, experts have raised concerns, especially with their housing policies.

Yesterday, 10th June 2024, Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, took to a make-shift stage on the third floor of a loft space in a converted factory near Shoreditch, London, to unveil his parties policies in a bid to win people’s votes in the next General Election. Although, like the location, Sir Davey’s plans could be described as full of potential but needing a lot of work to become somewhat successful.

top view photo of houses

This is particularly true for the parties housing policies. In the speech Sir Davey explained the Liberal Democrats will deliver 380,000 homes a year, 150,000 social homes and the construction of ten new garden cities across the UK. In keeping with the green theme, the party have also claimed all new homes would be required to be built at a zero-carbon standard with solar panels, and requirements for landlords to upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes to EPC C or above by 2028 would be reintroduced.

However, since Sir Davey unveiled his housing plans, various industry experts have expressed their concerns. Professionals have claimed that the yearly housing target is too high – our current government have continuously failed to meet the requirement of delivering 300,000 new homes a year and councils will run into problems with landowners should they attempt to construct new properties.

Below are some reactions to the Liberal Democrats new manifesto, which is otherwise known as ‘For a Fair Deal’, and can be accessed in full here.

Colin Brown, head of planning and development, Carter Jonas:

‘There is nothing especially ‘new’ about the Lib Dems’ policies on planning and development and many of their ambitions reflect those of some of the other parties. 

‘What differs most from the current situation is the commitment to 380,000 new homes per annum, which is over 25% higher than the current Government target.  The manifesto says that this will be done by delivering ten new garden villages, but they do not say where these will be or how they will ensure they are delivered in a timely fashion.

“Much of the evidence about garden villages and new settlements generally is that they are difficult and slow to deliver, and politically difficult to land. It is not clear from the manifesto as to how they will implement delivery and require local councils to meet their housing targets. At present, this appears to rely on local authority and local community buy-in, with benefits offered to local authorities when they accept new housing.  This has not been overwhelmingly successful under the current government with CIL and the new homes bonus.

‘One new proposal is to allow councils to buy land at existing land value, presumably with compulsory purchase powers, through a reform of the Land Compensation Act 1961. This will be controversial with landowners, and it remains to see how it would work.  Other parties, specifically Labour, have spoken of capturing more land value, but not necessarily to the level of existing use value which may be agricultural.  I would argue that a landowner should still be able to see a sufficient return to make disposal of the land desirable, as opposed to continuing an existing use.’

Lawrence Turner, director, Boyer:

‘So while the Liberal Democrats’ emphasis on funding local planning departments and promoting brownfield development is a step in the right direction, the manifesto lacks detailed strategies to overcome the structural challenges facing the housing sector. The manifesto pledges to build capacity within local authorities, encourage rural housing expansion, and trialling community land auctions are positive steps, but may not be sufficient to achieve the ambitious target of 380,000 homes per year.

‘While the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto highlights the urgency of addressing the housing crisis, the Party’s proposed policies lack sufficient detail at this time and face several obstacles that need to be overcome. Psychological resistance to new developments, local governance challenges, and constraints within the construction industry present significant barriers to achieving the target of 380,000 homes per year. While the Party’s proposals offer some solutions, a more comprehensive approach is needed to address the complex challenges of housing delivery in the UK.’

Aidan Van de Weyer, senior planner, Lanpro Services:

‘From a planning perspective, the top lines in the Lib Dem manifesto are really positive. The delivery target of 380,000 homes year is welcome – but ambitious. As we know from recent experience, meeting housing targets is always controversial. The greater the housing target, the greater the controversy.

‘The Lib Dem manifesto says that this can be achieved through community-led initiatives and the creation of ten new garden cities – as Labour has done. So it will be interesting to see in what respect the Lib Dems plan to achieve this differently to Labour.

‘The Lib Dems have come up with a concrete proposal for solving the resourcing problems of local authorities: allow councils to set their own fees for planning applications. The impact of this will vary depending on how much freedom is given to councils. But with substantial freedoms allowed, this risks creating a two-tier planning service: wealthy, attractive areas get well-resourced planning teams, while quality in less affluent areas drops as councils compete to bring in development – perpetuating the rich/poor divide which already impacts far too much in our planning system.

‘The Lib Dems, again like Labour, have stated their support for allowing councils to be given compulsory purchase powers at existing use values for housing, along the lines of the as-yet unimplemented measures in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act (LURA).  Although each of the three main parties seems intent on pursuing this policy, without very clear rules and processes, this will introduce risks of challenge and delay that could make the powers difficult to use in practice.’

Images: Maximillian Conacher, Colin Brown, Lawrence Turner and Aidan Van de Weyer.

More on this topic:

Labour unveils grand plan to help first-time buyers

‘Time for a change’: Business leaders back Labour’s economic plans

Emily Whitehouse
Writer and journalist for Newstart Magazine, Social Care Today and Air Quality News.


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