Manifesto also promises to deliver 1 million new homes

The Conservative Party has pledged to support the use of modern methods of construction in its general election manifesto.

The manifesto, launched yesterday, said the party would “make the planning system simpler for the public and small builders, and support modern methods of construction” if it is elected on 12 December. 

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The pledge sat alongside well trailed promises to deliver 1 million homes over the five-year term while making “progress” towards a target of 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.

As expected, the party also promised to “encourage a new market in long-term fixed-rate mortgages” – though no money has been allocated to support this – and explore how to support homeownership after the demise of Help to Buy in 2023. In a pledge that may lead to the partial resurrection of the failed starter homes programme, the party said it would allow councils to use section 106 receipts to fund homes for sale to local people at just two-thirds of the market rate.

In addition, there were promises to renew the affordable homes programme, which funds low-cost housing, publish a social housing white paper and amend planning rules so that infrastructure supporting development has to be in place before people move in.

Boris Johnson said: “We want to get Brexit done so we can get on with our work of making Britain the greatest place in the world to live, to go to school, to start a family, to own a home, to start a business – with the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth.”

In response to the manifesto, the government’s MMC champion, Mark Farmer, tweeted that it was “important” that MMC had been explicitly referenced as manifesto commitment. He added: “What we really need is a clear apolitical & long term consensus from all parties that our construction industry desperately needs modernisation and that in turn needs pump priming by government”.

Joseph Daniels, founder of modular developer Project Etopia, said the relative lack of ambition on housing supply numbers showed a welcome focus on an achievable target, while the pledge on MMC was significant. “Mainstream interest in MMC is established and policymakers now regard offsite construction as the lifeboat that brings a target of 300,000 new homes a year into achievable focus.”

Crispin Truman, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, criticised the lack of focus on affordable rural housing. He said: We’re calling on the next government to invest £12.8bn a year to provide genuinely affordable homes, including homes for social rent, with a fair proportion allocated for rural communities.”

Clive Docwra, managing director of construction consultancy McBains, said the housing supply targets would remain a pipe dream “without radical action on the supply side.” He added: “The government’s record on starter homes is not good. Earlier this month a report from the National Audit Office found that a pledge to build 200,000 new starter homes for first-time buyers in England had failed to produce a single [new] property.”