Conservative manifesto: Full industry reaction

Louise Dransfield

The industry gives its views on May’s manifesto

The Conservative party has put out its plans for the country if it wins the upcoming election promising “strong and stable” leadership to ensure a smooth Brexit.

However, the manifesto saw infrasturcture projects such as Crossrail 2 unmentioned, while Theresa May pledged to build new homes to help bring the cost of buying and renting down to a more affordable level.

What does the industry think?

Industry reaction

Mark Farmer, chief executive of Cast

“This is another clear sign that Theresa May will fully ditch the previous obsession with owner-occupation that marked the Cameron-Osborne years, and instead brace a genuinely agnostic housing policy that embraces homes across a full spectrum from true affordable rent, intermediate ownership and rent through to market rent and ownership.

“The key to a sustainable housing market is a more diverse set of players delivering these different products. The promotion of more local authority housing is particularly welcomed but will in turn put authorities’ internal development and delivery resources in the spotlight.

Marie-Claude Hemming, director of external affairs for the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA)

“Should she remain in Number 10, Theresa May must ensure that there is no major change to the anticipated pipeline of work which could unsettle the markets or deter investors.

“CECA is particularly pleased that the Conservative manifesto includes a commitment to existing strategic investments such as High Speed 2, Northern Powerhouse Rail, and expanding Heathrow Airport.

“At the same time, we believe there is scope for the Prime Minister to do more to provide clarity on major projects that are not named in the manifesto, such as Crossrail 2, the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, and new nuclear power stations.

“The Prime Minister is right to be candid about the challenges facing the UK. However, if she is to deliver a strong and stable economy, she must ensure the infrastructure sector is prioritised as a primary driver of growth by providing greater clarity on these issues.”

Jane Duncan, president of RIBA

“The RIBA welcomes the Conservatives’ acknowledgment that the UK’s architects are the finest in the world. This is recognition of the vital role that good design has on improving quality of life, sustainability and social integration; and acknowledgement that architects are the design professionals that make this happen.”

“The Conservative Party’s manifesto outlines its vision to further empower communities. Whoever forms the next government should ensure that plans to build high quality housing and infrastructure are linked with industrial and devolution strategies to encourage more jobs and a better quality of life for people across the country.”

Dipa Joshi, director at Assael Architecture

“The pledge of a ‘council house revolution’ in today’s Conservative manifesto will be a real game changer if it actually materialises. By giving local authorities new powers and more money, the supply of homes could be greatly increased.

“However, for us to not make the same mistakes as we have in the past, the build quality of these council houses, and the public realm that surrounds them, needs to be prioritised. Of course, the housing crisis is a matter of supply, but also a matter of quality and long-term management. Ensuring quality through both design and build needs to take precedence.” 

Dean Clifford, director at Great Marlborough Estates

“While we need to up the volume of housing, we have to protect the architectural personality of our towns. London alone has dozens of villages within it, each with its own cultural identity. What we build now will be with us for decades to come. It’s therefore crucial that planners encourage innovation and support moves to re-engineer older, unworkable buildings back into use.

“We also need some realism: in most cases, development is disproportionately seen as negative by those close to it. We have to trust architects and have more confidence in planners. As the Conservative manifesto says, Britain has ‘the finest architects and planners in the world’. We should trust them to deliver the homes we need at the level of quality we expect.”

Sarah McMonagle, director of external affairs at the Federation of Master Builders

“A revised house building target of 1.5 million homes from 2015 to 2022 ups the ante on housing delivery again, but these ambitions can only be delivered with an accompanying focus on creating a more diverse and innovative house building sector.

“The decline in the number and output of smaller local house builders over the past few decades has led to the industry’s capacity haemorrhaging. To deliver the PM’s vision we will need to reverse this.

“The Manifesto’s explicit pledge to diversify the delivery of new homes is therefore extremely welcome. Key to doing this will be being able to build on some of the sensible reforms outlined in the recent Housing White Paper, which we hope to see implemented.”

Robert Meakin, partner at Clyde & Co

“On economic infrastructure, the manifesto reiterates the ongoing investment programmes for road and rail, and recycles last year’s announcement of the National Productivity Investment Fund.  In that sense, it continues to eschew the statements of grand ambition favoured by the last administration. 

“It does, however, have an eye-catching plan to create sovereign wealth funds for infrastructure investment, using funds released from the use or sale of surplus public assets, as well as revenues generated from shale gas extraction (heavily backed elsewhere in the manifesto, in sharp contrast to Labour’s proposed ban on fracking). 

“In addition, the government will encourage contributions from pension funds, looking for stable long term returns on infrastructure assets.  If these so-called Future Britain Funds do finally provide the key to unlock significant institutional investment in UK infrastructure, then it would be a notable achievement. 

“Some will question, however, whether they are really a better answer than Labour’s proposed National Investment Bank and National Transformation Fund, or simply another way to avoid grasping the nettle of co-ordinated and strategic government-led investment.”

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