Politicians face off at election special

The Tories will abandon stamp duty for first time buyers if elected, while Labour plans to build on its support of the last year, if reelected.
The claims were made yesterday at the HBF Policy Conference 2010 Election Special, organized by Housebuilder magazine at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Housing minister John Healey claimed that Tory plans to shake-up the planning system would create chaos in the council tax system and would not work, besides going against the shadow Chancellor’s promises for a council tax freeze. Shadow housing minister Grant Shapps challenged the industry to “put (the plans) to the test” , and attacked the Government’s record on initiatives such as the Local Development Framework and help for homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages.

“We are proposing a system that works from the bottom-up, where development is always a benefit to the local infrastructure and economy. We call it localism – or to put it another way – democracy”.

Healey pointed out that just because there may be problems with the current planning system, that doesn’t automatically make any alternative better. “Do we want a scheme that would effectively push public money towards homes that would be built anyway,” he said. “We need a planning system that can take account of all the legitimate public concerns as well as the need for development.” He then pointed out that sometimes all those differences can’t be resolved.

The pair was accompanied on the panel by Christine Whitehead, Professor of Housing Economics at the LSE, who described the housebuilding industry as being “on lifesupport” but with little indication that it is yet robust enough to stand on its own again, particularly since there are still problems with getting funding for purchases.

“Until there is sufficient funding in the system from the demand side, the supply side will not get going again,” she said.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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