Whatever government takes power in December, they will need an ambitious plan to tackle the pressing issues facing our country. This digest examines the key parties’ policies on the issues most relevant to the landscape sector, including housing delivery, planning policy, and flood defence

    Photo by Jordan McDonald on Unsplash

    Some have described this election as a Brexit election. But an issue that was almost an afterthought five years ago has gripped this cycle: the climate emergency. The environment has become a major talking point and an important part of this year’s manifestos.

    Given that concerns over the climate and environment are at record levels, this is no surprise. Each manifesto is packed with policies, but in the below analysis we have focused on several key pledges relevant to our membership including housing delivery, planning policy, and flood defences.

    Conservative manifesto

    Boris Johnson launched the Conservative manifesto Get Brexit Done, Unleash Britain’s Potential on 24 November, reaffirming his party’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2050.

    The document confirms plans for the mooted Office for Environmental Protection, which will uphold performance against environmental standards following the UK’s departure from the European Union, including new legal targets for air quality.

    There is a large focus on energy-efficient housing, with a drive to improve energy efficiency and decarbonise homes. The manifesto promises an investment of £6.3 billion to improve the energy efficiency of 2.2 million homes, and £9 billion to achieve efficiencies in schools and hospitals.

    The party pledges to set aside a £1 billion fund to develop clean energy, with a further investment of £500 million to help energy-intensive industries decarbonise. Support for areas of the green economy are somewhat vague; however, there will be increased funding for flood defences as part of a £4 billion package. Green infrastructure is mentioned in the summary as part of an apparatus to deliver net-zero emissions by 2050, but is not covered in any more detail within the body of the document itself.

    The Conservatives have also promised to publish a Social Housing White Paper, which will ‘set out further measures to empower tenants and support the continued supply of social homes’. There are restatements of existing commitments to the Affordable Homes Programme. Developments will continue to be focused on brownfield sites, and there is a pledge to protect and enhance the Green Belt. Alongside this there is a drive to create infrastructure for new developments with the new £10 billion Single Housing Infrastructure Fund.

    Labour manifesto

    The Labour manifesto, It’s Time for Real Change, outlines how the party’s policies will put the UK close to net-zero carbon by 2030 and drive an economic boom in the green industry. The manifesto begins with details about the flagship ‘Green Industrial Revolution’. There are plans for 14 new Regional Energy Agencies supplanting the current network; these new operators will sit under a UK National Energy Agency and will oversee delivery of decarbonisation and infrastructure maintenance.

    In terms of housing and energy provision, there is a commitment to build almost 10,000 new wind turbines and millions of solar panels. Labour pledges to build at least 150,000 new social homes per year within five years, with two thirds delivered by local authorities, backed by £75 billion in funding. Labour also promises to ‘end the conversion of office blocks to homes that sidestep planning permission through “permitted development”‘. The party said it would also seek to introduce a ‘use it or lose it’ land tax for developers of stalled housing schemes. A review of planning guidance for developments in flood risk areas has also been mooted, and the party says it ‘will make brownfield sites the priority for development and protect the green belt’.

    Similar to the Conservatives, Labour seeks to upgrade the nation’s homes to the highest energy efficiency standards, which it is claimed will reduce bills by £417 a year. In order to meet its target to make zero-carbon homes the standard, there is a focus on solar hot water, heat pumps, and other measures, which are detailed in Labour’s new Decent Homes Programme. The party said all new homes would be built to ‘cutting-edge design and green standards’.

    The party will also seek to bolster recycling industries with investment in steel recycling facilities and a new plastics remanufacturing industry, ‘creating thousands of jobs, ending exports of plastic waste and reducing our contribution to ocean pollution’. High-emitting industries will face a ‘windfall tax’ for their role in GHG emissions and environmental damage.

    Labour has pledged to present a Climate and Environment Emergency Bill that sets out ‘robust, binding new standards for decarbonisation, nature recovery, environmental quality and habitats and species protection’. There is confirmation that current EU environmental regulations will not be weakened but enhanced, with an ambition to have net-zero carbon food production by 2040. There is also a brief mention of working towards curbing emissions the UK imports rather than just produces, with a push for a cleaner supply chain. There are ambitions for ten new national parks and urban green spaces to be created; the party has also committed to planting 2 billion trees by 2040 and allocating £1.2 billion to restore natural habitats in a bid to tackle the ‘climate and environment emergency’.

    Liberal Democrat manifesto

    The Liberal Democrats have similarly detailed plans to ‘tackle the climate emergency’, with a pledge to generate 80% of electricity from renewables by 2030 and insulating all low-income homes by 2025.

    There is a pledge to ban non-recyclable single-use plastics and replace them with ‘affordable’ alternatives, aiming for their complete elimination within three years.

    Alongside this there an ambition to pass a Clean Air Act enforced by a new Air Quality Agency. To support this there is £2 billion set a side to expand Ultra-Low Emission Zones and transform vehicles to zero carbon.

    The Liberal Democrats promise to build at least 100,000 homes per year for social rent. They said the ‘large increase in the building of social homes’ would be funded through a £130 billion capital infrastructure budget. The party’s manifesto also proposes to make all new buildings generate as much renewable energy onsite as they need by 2021, and make all new buildings Passivhaus by 2025. There is also an ambition to scrap permitted developments rights that allow offices and shops to be converted to housing without a planning application.

    The party has pledged that a Liberal Democrat government will create a £5 billion flood prevention and adaptation fund. The party also promises to give local green spaces full legal protection, and is looking expand new rural areas with a new ‘National Nature Parks’ designation.

    Similar to Labour, the Liberal Democrats promise a drive to innovate and invest in a green, circular economy. Industries that cut resource use, waste and pollution by maximising recovery, reuse, recycling, and remanufacturing will benefit from incentives and government support.

    Green Party manifesto

    The Green Party has unsurprisingly the most ambitious targets and policies for climate change. The party is committed to a net-zero carbon economy by 2030 and will pledge a £100 million per-year investment plan to deliver a Green New Deal over the next 10 years.

    The party would attempt to totally overhaul the use of fossil fuels by switching transport and industry to renewable energy sources, while upgrading household heating systems and planting 700 million trees within a decade. The party have also called for a Green Energy Deal that will ensure renewable energy schemes get the long-term certainty needed to support investment.

    Plaid Cymru manifesto

    The Welsh Party has robust proposals around climate change and plans to allocate £15 billion to a Welsh Green Jobs Revolution. It aims to address housing needs with 20,000 social homes to be built to high environmental standards, and existing stock to be improved with energy efficiency measures.

    SNP manifesto

    Alongside a legally binding second independence referendum, the Scottish National Party has called for improved measures to tackle climate change. The SNP has also called for a decrease in VAT on energy efficiency home enhancements. By 2024, the party says, all new homes should be built to include renewable energy or low-carbon heat.

    Brexit Party manifesto

    Mr Farage’s party promises to plant millions of trees to capture CO2 and to propose a global initiative at the UN. The Brexit Party would also make it illegal for waste to be exported across the world to be burnt, buried or dumped at sea. There is a vague commitment to accelerating the pace of housebuilding, especially on brownfield sites; this could potentially mean the relaxation of green standards for new homes to give housebuilders more freedom.

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