Property professionals give views on political pledges

Michael Hunt

Property consultants at GVA Grimley's Manchester office have given their thoughts on the manifestos made by the three main political parties in the lead up to the General Election next week, which concern the property industry.

The three GVA Grimley consultants have provided their views on each of the parties' pledges to housing, planning and commercial concerns within the property industry.

Gordon Brown, leader of the Labour party, David Cameron, leader of the Conservatives, and Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, are currently locked in a war of words in the build up to the General Election on Thursday 6 May.

Empty Rates Tax

Mark RawstronSpeaking about what each party member has said about the empty rates tax, Mark Rawstron, regional senior director of GVA Grimley, said: "The subject of empty rates and the rating system as a whole remains a political hot potato. Labour has pledged to maintain the existing empty rates tax, which is a damaging move. The belief that a tax on empty property will encourage proprietors and owners to let more space has proven to be incorrect. In reality, it just stifles development and regeneration. Although it is not yet directly addressed by the opposing parties, the change in government does present an opportunity for a much needed review of this taxation.

"Another hot issue spanning across all parties is the sale of public sector assets. Whatever the outcome of the election, this will clearly be high on the agenda during the next Parliament as a means of generating cash revenues and addressing budget deficits."


Iain JenkinsonIain Jenkinson, director in planning, development and regeneration, added: "When looking at the stances that the three main parties take on spatial planning, there appear to be very few areas where they are aligned. As a consequence, if there is a change in Government after the election, we could see some pretty radical and extreme reforms to the planning system and, probably, a period of uncertainty and opportunism whilst manifesto commitments are worked up into law.

"Elements of the Tory proposals would necessitate a fundamental remodelling of parts of the current system and there remains a great deal of speculation in the planning profession about how their commitments in respect of removing the regional tier of plan-making, withdrawing national targets for housing delivery and, putting in place a localised, bottom-up plan-making system will actually work.

"There are concerns also about their proposals to introduce third party rights of appeal at the planning application stage, something that the Lib Dems are also saying they will bring in.

"Interestingly, in the case of a hung parliament, we could potentially see the Lib Dems becoming the key players in planning terms, as their manifesto sees them occupying the middle ground between Tory radicalism and Labour's obvious pledge to more or less maintain the status quo. I think that whatever happens, we need to ensure that we don't go too far with reform and that any changes that are made to the system don't damage the economic recovery. Change for change's sake won't help anyone."


David SayerDavid Sayer, director in residential consultancy, said: "Housing policy is one area where the three main parties share some common ground, however, big issues – being financing for speculative development and the availability of affordable low deposit mortgages for first time buyers – has not been addressed. The Conservatives announced several months ago that they would scrap Stamp Duty for first time buyers purchasing houses worth £250,000 or less, but the policy was actually implemented in Alistair Darling's last budget. Another area of common ground is the Conservative and Liberal Democrat pledges to abolish Home Information Packs. HIPs are regarded by many as a totally unnecessary tax on selling a home which has undoubtedly been an additional deterrent on people putting their property on the market.

"The manifestos of the three main parties are light on policy regarding housing, so this leaves a lot of room for decisions to be made if a different party were to take the lead in Parliament following the election. Apart from, but closely linked to the issue of finance, is the findings of the 2006 Barker Report, which called for a more responsive and streamlined approach to housing and planning policy in order to address the critical need for considerably more new housing across the UK.

"Kate Barker predicted that 209,000 new households are being established each year, putting tremendous pressure on existing housing stock. At present we are building approximately half that number of new homes per year, which, despite current economic conditions, is creating a bubble waiting to burst."

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God forbid that any of the parties should be in a position to address the down right dishonesty which is rife in planning. The attitude of DCLG is not repeated in Local Planning Offices where third party views are dismissed or obstructed. GVA Grimley are hardly in a position to comment since they play both sides of the field preparing documentation for both Local Authorities and their major customer Tesco on the same sites. You should be shaking in your shoes!

By Gay Brown