Prime minister’s conference speech also confirmed commitment to planning reform

David Cameron has called for a “new Tory housing revolution” in his leader’s speech to the Conservative conference.

Speaking to delegates in Manchester, Cameron confirmed announcements made earlier in the week to boost housing supply, including the return of Margaret Thatcher’s right-to-buy policy. He said: “Because lenders won’t lend, builders won’t build and buyers can’t buy. We’re sorting this out, bringing back the right-to-buy and using the money to build new homes.”

He also reaffirmed the government’s drive to reform the planning system, despite opposition from groups who fear it will lead to over-development. He said: “I love our countryside and there is nothing I would do to put it at risk. But let’s get the balance right. The proportion of land that in England that is currently built up is 9%. There are businesses out there desperate to expand, to hire thousands of people – but they’re stuck in the mud of our planning system.”

However, in an apparent nod to ongoing discussions about the wording of the reforms and the prospect of a transitional period, he added: “Of course we’re open to constructive ideas about how to get this [reform] right.”

Opening his speech by saying the country wanted the government to “get us out of this economic mess”, Cameron told delegates “This was no normal recession; we’re in a debt crisis.” He reiterated comments made by chancellor George Osborne earlier in the week that the government was “taking action now to get credit flowing to the small businesses that are the engine of the economy.”

However, despite restating commitments to High Speed rail, academies and free schools, Cameron remained staunch over his refusal to increase public spending. He said: “When you’re in a debt crisis, some of the normal things that government can do, to deal with a normal recession, like borrowing to cut taxes or increase spending – these things won’t work because they lead to more debt, which would make the crisis worse.”

Reacting to Cameron’s speech, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has called on the coalition to reduce the burden on house builders.

FMB director general Richard Diment said: “If Cameron wants to lead a housing revolution he needs to deliver on his government’s commitment to reduce the burden on house builders over the course of the parliament.

“At the moment this isn’t going to happen. This government has encouraged local authorities to introduce the Community Infrastructure Levy, the removal of housing targets has resulted in the scrapping of plans for two years’ supply of house building, and plans for zero carbon homes are continuing despite the policy going further and faster than required by EU directives. 

“Cameron can have his revolution but he needs to get the coalition’s housing policies to fit in with his ambitions.”