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Manifesto pledges on housing – build more and better

In advance of the general election on 8 June, I’ve taken a look at what the manifestos of the three main parties in England – the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems - pledge on house building and set out some thoughts on what this could mean for the environment.

May 2017

On numbers, there’s actually not much to choose between them as all three parties commit to a substantial programme of house-building. Labour would build over one million new homes, while the Lib Dems would increase housing-building rates to 300,000 per year. The Conservatives repeat their previous manifesto pledge of building one million homes by the end of 2020 and also pledge half a million more by the end of 2022.

There’s also a clear aspiration from all parties to ‘build better’ with the Lib Dems committing to mobilise investment in low-carbon and sustainable infrastructure, the Conservatives aspiring to match the quality of housing stock inherited from previous generations and Labour promising to consult on new rules on minimum space standards and modern standards for building zero carbon homes.

Each party promises some safeguards for the environment with the Conservatives pledging to maintain existing protections on designated land like the Green Belt, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Labour promising to protect the green belt and prioritise building on brownfield sites, and the Lib Dems seeking a focus on low-carbon and sustainable infrastructure.

But with this amount of construction, a much bolder approach is needed that puts nature-rich housing at its heart from the start. Anything less would be a missed opportunity. There are many examples of developer/environmental charity collaboration, which show how environmental and housing goals can be delivered together. The six newly elected Metro Mayors have an opportunity to test how to use their new powers on housing, transport and planning to deliver this in practice.

Once the dust has settled following the election, Wildlife and Countryside Link will be engaging with the new Housing Minister, to discuss how we can help the government deliver its housing pledges in a way that better connects people with nature.

Headline pledges


  • Deliver a million homes by the end of 2020 and half a million more by the end of 2022
  • Deliver the reforms proposed in the Housing White Paper to free up more land for new homes, speed up build-out and give councils powers to intervene where developers do not act on their planning permissions
  • Diversify who builds homes
  • Build better houses, to match the quality of those inherited from previous generations
  • Support high-quality, high-density housing like mansion blocks, mews houses and terraced streets
  • Maintain the existing strong protections on designated land like the Green Belt, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • Rebalance housing growth across the country
  • Build 160,000 houses on government land
  • Help councils to build, but only those councils who will build high-quality, sustainable and integrated communities
  • Reform Compulsory Purchase Orders to make them easier and less expensive for councils to use
  • Give greater flexibility to housing associations to increase their housing stock


  • Invest to build over one million new homes
  • By the end of the next Parliament, build at least 100,000 council and housing association homes a year
  • Establish a new Department for Housing
  • Give councils new powers over house building
  • Prioritise brownfield sites
  • Protect the green belt
  • Start work on a ‘new generation’ of New Towns and avoid urban sprawl
  • Consult on new rules on minimum space standards
  • Consult on new modern standards for building zero carbon homes
  • Ensure local plans address the need for older people’s housing
  • Prevent the privatisation of the Land Registry

Lib Dems

  • Increase the rate of housebuilding to 300,000 a year – almost double the current level
  • Devolve more decision-making power over key levers of economic development including transport and housing
  • Directly build homes to fill the gap left by the market through a government commissioning programme, ensuring that half a million affordable, energy-efficient homes are built by the end of the parliament
  • Create at least 10 new garden cities in England
  • Set up a new government-backed British Housing and Infrastructure Development Bank to provide long-term capital for major new settlements and to mobilise investment in the low-carbon and sustainable infrastructure
  • Require local plans to take into account at least 15 years of future housing need
  • Create a community right of appeal for decisions against the approved local plan
  • Enable local authorities to enforce housebuilding on unwanted public sector land and penalise excessive land-banking

Ruth Chambers

Policy Consultant, The Wildlife Trusts

Find me on twitter @ruthmchambers

The opinions expressed in this blog are the author’s and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.