What does the UK general election mean for the built environment?

Posted on: 27 June, 2024

The 2024 General Election in the UK brings a variety of proposals from major political parties, each with different visions for the country’s future. But what do they mean for the built environment?

This article looks at the key points related to the built environment in the main political party manifestos, looking at the topics of skills, sustainability, safety and housing. These were chosen as they were some of the most prominent subjects in manifestos released by the major built environment professional bodies.

Of course, it would be unreasonable to expect political manifestos, which are aimed at a generalist audience, to cover the technicalities of the built environment sector in detail. Still, UCEM thought that the political parties’ manifestos might provide some insight into how the parties could approach our sector in government.

Skills and Workforce

Political party manifesto key points on skills and workforce, particularly concerning the built environment:

  • Conservative Party: Focuses on improving vocational training and apprenticeships, promising to fund 100,000 apprenticeships for young people.
  • Green Party: Emphasises the need for training programmes that equip workers with skills in retrofitting and green technologies, pledging £4 billion towards these.
  • Labour Party: Plans to liberalise the apprenticeship levy, so it can be spent on a wider range of training courses and promises a ‘workforce and training plan’ for the construction sector.
  • Liberal Democrats: Advocate for investment in skills training and apprenticeships, particularly in modern methods of construction.
  • Plaid Cymru: The party would create ‘centres of excellence’ in both the construction of new houses and retrofitting existing housing stock.
  • Reform UK: Supports expanding vocational training and apprenticeships via tax relief on businesses that undertake apprenticeships.
  • Scottish National Party: Aims to address skills shortages with targeted training programmes in green and digital technologies.


Political party manifesto key points on sustainability, particularly concerning the built environment:

  • Conservative Party: Abolish nutrient neutrality rules, with developers legally required to pay a one-off mitigation fee so there is no net additional pollution.
  • Green Party: Plans to retrofit private and social housing to ‘EPC B’ for energy efficiency, with a £50 billion pledge over the next five years to adapt homes to climate change, via a local authority-led model. The party would change building regulations so all new homes meet Passivhaus or equivalent standards. House builders would be also required to include solar panels and low-carbon heating systems such as heat pumps, with the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard becoming ‘EPC C’.
  • Labour Party: Pledges to ensure the building of more sustainable homes and to create places that increase climate resilience, alongside nature recovery. Labour says they will also implement solutions to unlock the construction of homes affected by nutrient neutrality without weakening environmental protections.
  • Liberal Democrats: The party would push for increased use of sustainable wood in construction and require all new homes and non-domestic buildings to be built to a zero-carbon standard, including being fitted with solar panels.
  • Plaid Cymru: Aims for net zero emissions by 2035, with this partly being enabled by a long-term plan for retrofitting existing properties that would make them more energy efficient, thereby reducing costs and carbon emissions.
  • Reform UK: Does not cover the issue of built environment sustainability. Reform UK is the only party to promise to scrap wider net-zero targets and instead focus on supporting cleaner versions of existing technologies.
  • Scottish National Party: Commits achieving net zero emissions in Scotland by 2045 and addressing the imbalance in VAT rates in the construction sector to encourage the refurbishment and retrofitting of existing buildings.

Building Safety

Political party manifesto key points on built environment quality and safety:

  • Conservative Party: Would require the continuation of developer-funded remediation programmes for mid and high-rise buildings deemed unsafe.
  • Green Party: Greens would invest in publicly accountable building inspectors and building control officers.
  • Labour Party: Proposes action to improve building safety, with a focus on preventing disasters like Grenfell and speeding up remediation works for unsafe buildings.
  • Liberal Democrats: Commit to removing unsafe cladding from all buildings, while ensuring that leaseholders or freeholders do not have to fund these works.
  • Plaid Cymru: Building safety is not a focus of the manifesto, but Plaid does promise to ensure quality by working to develop Welsh construction supply chains.
  • Reform UK: Plans to Incentivise innovation to speed up and improve the quality of building, for example via the use of modular construction, digital technology etc.
  • Scottish National Party: Will introduce a Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (a.k.a RAAC) Remediation Fund for public sector buildings.

Housing and Planning

Political party manifesto key points on housing and planning:

  • Conservative Party: Plan strong design codes and fast-track planning for brownfield sites in the 20 largest cities to enable the gentle densification of urban areas. The party would also remove the Section 106 requirements on smaller sites, ensuring CIL monies are spent on services directly needed to support new homes. The Tories also pledge to protect Green Belt designation.
  • Green Party: Proposes 150,000 new social homes per year, rent controls and encouraging local authorities to spread smaller developments across their areas rather than building huge new estates.
  • Labour Party: Promises to build 1.5 million new homes, facilitated by restoring housing targets and a presumption in favour of sustainable development, with requirements for more affordable housing. The party’s ethos is brownfield first, but that greenfield will be necessary. They also plan for cross-boundary strategic planning between local authorities and reforms to compulsory purchase rules to improve land supply and housing delivery.
  • Liberal Democrats: Target 380,000 homes per year across the UK, including 150,000 social homes. This includes constructing 10 garden cities, financial incentives for brownfield development and ‘use it or lose it’ planning permissions. The Lib Dems would also expand Neighbourhood Planning, trial Community Land Auctions to fund local services and encourage the use of rural exception sites.
  • Plaid Cymru: Proposes a ‘Right to Adequate Housing Bill’, which would include rent controls and other interventions to make housing more affordable. Other policies are focused on areas such as limiting the spread of second/holiday homes in Wales and encouraging developers to build bungalows and smaller homes.
  • Reform UK: Advocates for tax incentives and fast-track planning for brownfield sites and ‘loose fit planning’ policy for large residential developments. Reform UK would also restore landlords’ rights to deduct finance costs and mortgage interest from tax on rental income, alongside not progressing the Renters’ (Reform) Bill. Instead, they will boost the monitoring, appeals and enforcement process for renters with grievances.
  • Scottish National Party: Expand the delivery of social housing by devolving Housing Benefit and Local Housing Allowance and scrapping the bedroom tax.


In summary, the 2024 General Election manifestos of the UK’s major political parties offer diverse perspectives and commitments regarding the built environment. From skills and workforce development to sustainability, safety and housing, each party presents a unique approach to addressing the sector’s challenges and opportunities.

As stakeholders in the built environment sector, it is crucial for us to stay informed about these political proposals. While manifestos provide an outline of each party’s intentions, the actual implementation and impact of these policies will depend on the election’s outcome and subsequent legislative actions.

UCEM remains committed to supporting the development of the built environment through education, regardless of the political landscape. We encourage our community to engage critically with these proposals and consider their implications for the future of our sector.


This Article is not meant to endorse any political party or influence how any member of the UK electorate should vote. As a higher education institution and registered charity, UCEM is strictly politically neutral. In this blog, we have attempted to give equal prominence to the views of all the major UK political parties and they are listed above in alphabetical order.