Election watch: UK property & infrastructure

Our blog will cover all the UK property & infrastructure announcements in the run-up to the vote as and when they are made. We will update this page as more detail emerges

Wednesday 3 April 2024

Housing a top issue in Labour’s constituencies

Housing will be a key issue for the main political parties in the run up to the General Election, with a YouGov poll on 1 April showing it is the fourth most important issue for voters, after immigration, health and the economy.

No date for the election has been announced yet, and no manifestos have been printed, but a front-page article in The Times today has started to ramp up issue of housing with voters. The story says that the Labour party is targeting voters who are pro-housebuilding, and that this will strengthen the party’s move to build more on the greenbelt – something they first alluded to late last year. Housing is reported to be the top issue in a quarter of Labour’s 100 ‘most-winnable’ constituencies.

The major issue for voters is the difficulty of finding housing, especially younger people hoping to purchase their first home. At the same time, some constituents are vocal in their opposition to new development in their area, especially when it is not accompanied by the amenities needed to support many new residents, such as new roads, schools and healthcare facilities. These communities have been dubbed ‘NIMBYs’ (not in my back yard). Those in favour of development are now called ‘YIMBYs’ (yes in my back yard).

What has been announced? Nothing firm yet, but a Labour spokesman says that Labour will prioritise the release of ‘grey belt’ land within green belts while protecting high-quality green belt land, echoing what Labour leader Kier Starmer said late last year.  

What and where is the green belt? The green belt is a planning tool to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land around key cities undeveloped, wild or in agricultural use, rather than building. It covers 12.5% of the land in England.

The map shows the rough outline of green belt.

Map showing England green belts

Source: Hellerick, own work based on data from http://data.london.gov.uk/datastore/package/area-designated-green-belt-land

What is the grey belt? This is a term used by the Labour party to indicate green belt land which is essentially ‘brownfield land’ – previously developed land which has fallen into disrepair – eg car parks, or wasteland.

What does this mean? Labour have pledged to build 1.5 million homes in the next Parliament – to meet that target, the delivery of homes would need to hit an average of 300,000 a year. This is a tall order under current conditions in the construction and planning landscape, as well as the economic backdrop. Labour would have to make some major changes to achieve this – hence mooting building on the green belt, creating a point of difference with the Conservatives who have pledged to protect it.

Pledging far more housebuilding, which would boost the availability of housing (ideally where it is most needed) as well as the knock-on economic benefits that come with new housing (e.g. employment in the building sector, sales of new kitchens and big-ticket items such as furniture etc) will be popular move among potential Labour voters, the Times says. It also comes at a tricky time for the Conservatives, after large-scale planning reforms proposed by Housing Secretary Michael Gove to boost housing delivery were watered down in the face of opposition from his own MPs worried about NIMBYs in their constituencies. 

Graph showing net housing supply in England


However, this is just the starting pistol when it comes to housing – from new development to stamp duty and new rights for renters. Stay updated on all the latest news here.  

The information provided in this report is the sole property of Cluttons LLP and provides basic information and not legal advice. It must not be copied, reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, either in whole or in part, without the prior written consent of Cluttons LLP. The information contained in this report has been obtained from sources generally regarded to be reliable. However, no representation is made, or warranty given, in respect of the accuracy of this information. Cluttons LLP does not accept any liability in negligence or otherwise for any loss or damage suffered by any party resulting from reliance on this publication.

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Gráinne Gilmore

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Gráinne Gilmore, director of research & insights, Cluttons

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