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Leaders Romans Group’s Top 10 Manifesto Wishlist and Policy Responses

May 28, 2024 PR Officer


1.       Landlords and tenants.

2.       Property sales.

3.       Support for local authorities.

4.       Shared ownership.

5.       Leasehold reform..

6.       Funding of affordable housing.

7.       Levelling up.

8.       Strategic land and planning.

9.       Planning.

10.         Political direction.

1.        Landlords and tenants

Fiscal reform for the private rented sector

Allison Thompson, National Lettings Managing Director of Leaders Romans Group:

We’ve already seen some landlords leaving the private rented sector because of substantially increased taxes. To compensate for the losses incurred through additional regulation and interest rates rises, taxation must be addressed as a matter of urgency. Property lets are the only businesses in the UK which do not have taxes off-set: the playing field must be levelled.

Greater appreciation for the role that the private rented sector plays in addressing homelessness

Allison Thompson, National Lettings Managing Director of Leaders Romans Group:

Politicians – of all parties – seem to be oblivious of the role that the private rented sector plays in providing housing for those who may be homeless due to a lack of council / social housing – a deficit which is growing by the day. A change in focus – from penalising ‘rogue landlords’ to encouraging the many fair and honest landlords is much needed.

Energy efficiency demands made of landlords

Allison Thompson, National Lettings Managing Director of Leaders Romans Group:

Landlords are currently in a limbo when it comes to EPCs – the requirement to achieve a grade C has been scrapped, for now. Making energy efficiency structural changes is a long term process which needs to be managed around rental voids and so landlords need a clearer timeframe for any future change. Consideration also needs to be given to whether the requirements are reasonable in the light of growing costs to landlords.

Rental reform

Allison Thompson, National Lettings Managing Director of Leaders Romans Group:

The failure of the much-anticipated Renters (Reform) Bill to pass into law is a significant setback for both landlords and tenants. While many of the Bill’s provisions were contentious – including concerns over periodic tenancies, the abolition of Section 21 and the associated issues of court delays along with the inclusion of the right to request a pet – we believed that continued dialogue and amendments would have addressed the concerns of all stakeholders, ultimately benefiting the rental market.

The failure to pass the Bill highlights the need for comprehensive housing policies that provide stability and address the critical issues facing the sector, principally the undersupply of good-quality rental homes.

As the UK faces a housing crisis, it is imperative that the incoming government prioritises housing policies that ensure stability and long-term solutions. Over the past 13 years, there have been 16 different housing ministers, demonstrating a lack of continuity and commitment. We urge the next administration to place housing at the heart of its agenda, providing the consistency and long-term focus that the sector desperately needs.

2.        Property sales

Support for first time buyers and Stamp Duty

Jason Farrimond, Director, Land & New Homes:

This is the first time in recent history in which there is no support for housing from the government. Our shared ownership division is doing very well currently, but this demonstrates the fact that far fewer people than previously are able to buy on the open market, and the problem is expanding beyond the southeast.

A drop in Stamp Duty would be helpful, but it would need to be a permanent reduction. As we saw following the pandemic, a Stamp Duty holiday simply causes a bubble and when that bubble bursts, the market returns to the state that it was in previously.  A change to Stamp Duty must be embedded in the system; something that people can calculate into their long-term plans rather than creating a panic-buying scenario. This initiative would also help to get market moving, enabling others to move up the property ladder.

I’d like to see changes to Stamp Duty that benefits all levels of the property market to stimulate activity and help reduce the financial burden of buying a property. The property market is still extremely price sensitive so any help to offset some of the costs will be a big benefit for home movers, from first time buyers all the way through to downsizers.

It will take a number of years to get the planning system back on track, but if the new government makes housing a high priority, the benefits will soon cascade through the system and ultimately incentives and fiscal changes such as Help to Buy and changes to Stamp Duty won’t be necessary. The most successful markets are those which are fuelled by a positive cycle rather than relying on interventions which can create artificial inflation or ‘bumps’ in the market.

Incentives to encourage downsizing

Jason Farrimond, Director, Land & New Homes:

It has been suggested that incentives to encourage downsizing would benefit the market, allowing retired couples to move away from the family home without seeing their children’s inheritance spent on Stamp Duty.

The role of downsizing could increase substantially in view of the growing older population. But incentives linked to Stamp Duty should be applied evenly across the market: to avoid bumps and to remove Stamp Duty for downsizers across all geographic areas would disproportionately benefit those areas with the most expensive homes, exacerbating geographic irregularities and countering any benefits achieved through levelling up.

An end to uncertainty

Jason Farrimond, Director, Land & New Homes:

I predict a positive impact on the property market following the general election regardless of the outcome of the election. It is inevitable that in the run-up to the election there is uncertainty, and conversations of landslides perpetuate this uncertainty. Politicians committing to lowering house prices is encouraging news for many, but not for the short-to-medium health of the market.

A sustained commitment to the housing market

Kevin Shaw, National Sales Managing Director, Leaders Romans Group:

The last few years have seen too much change impacting on the housing market.  Initiatives such as Stamp Duty holidays have been of temporary benefit but haven’t provided the long-term stability that the market needs. The health of the property market is vital to the success of the UK economy.

This is partly because the ‘multiplier effect’ from a house sale is greater than that of any other purchase: from professional fees to redecoration and the purchase of new furniture as well as the total spend by new home owners. The benefit to the economy is significant.

Interest rates

Kevin Shaw, National Sales Managing Director, Leaders Romans Group:

An interest rate change of as little as 0.25% has a considerable impact on property market sentiment. The next Government’s focus must be on continuing to reduce inflation so that interest rates fall and mortgages with them. While changes to interest rates per se aren’t within the Government’s control, creating the right environment for an interest rate change certainly is.

Stamp Duty

Kevin Shaw, National Sales Managing Director, Leaders Romans Group:

Currently the punitive level of Stamp Duty – particularly on home purchases of over £500k – is holding back mobility in the housing market.

The greatest opportunity that any government has to benefit the property sales market is to make significant changes to Stamp Duty.  By this I do not mean a Stamp Duty holiday which, as we saw in 2020/21, results in a considerable peak, followed by a considerable slump.

An increase in housing targets

Kevin Shaw, National Sales Managing Director, Leaders Romans Group:

Labour has made a commitment to build more houses than the current Government.  The would-be-government has not promised to exceed the current target, but it has promised to meet it – something which has not been achieved so far under this Government. An increase in supply is welcome. Contrary to what some of the pundits have claimed, I do not believe that supply and demand factors will deflate house prices, because demand – largely pent-up over many years – will continue to outstrip supply for many years to come. And ultimately, supply will help free up frozen chains and create more positivity.

3.        Support for local authorities

Balancing supply and demand through supporting local authorities

Jason Farrimond, Director, Land & New Homes:

In reality, can any government create the ideal equilibrium between supply and demand – while also increasing affordability to allow more people to buy, while not devaluing the assets of those who already have?

The answer is probably no: at least we haven’t seen this situation in history to date.

And there are other issues impacting on the supply of new homes – not least the cost of labour and materials: variables which are outside of government control.

But what the next government can do is provide more support to local planning authorities – where planning teams have been reduced from 20 people to six, the funds must be made available to restore teams to their full strength so that planning applications can progress through the system.

Inevitably this has a cost attached, but we see it as an ‘opportunity cost’ – a cost which, because it benefits the economy, will result in economic gain.

4.        Shared ownership

An increase in the London earnings cap for shared ownership

Adrian Plant, Director of SOWN (part of Leaders Romans Group):

Shared ownership is limited to those with a maximum household income of £80K (outside London) and £90K (in London). But many people are finding that due to the impact of interest rates rises on mortgages, car and credit card loans, together with the cost of food and utility bills, they can no longer afford to buy outright, and shared ownership is a good alternative. We would welcome an increase in the London cap especially, to that a family in which both adults earn just over £45,000 can still qualify for shared ownership.

A replacement for Help to Buy

Adrian Plant, Director of SOWN (part of Leaders Romans Group):

Although various initiatives aimed at first time buyers remain, the absence of Help to Buy is very strongly felt. The scheme, which enabled buyers to buy with a 5% deposit using an equity loan worth 20% of the price of a new build home (40% in London), aided the purchase of almost 390,000 new build homes.

My view is that the government needs to get behind shared ownership in the same way it did Help to Buy.  Help to Buy benefited from a dedicated, widely recognised brand with an effective information campaign and website which pointed would-be purchasers in the direction of suitable products.

Remove the planning logjams and excessive planning gain requirements to increase the supply of affordable housing

Adrian Plant, Director of SOWN (part of Leaders Romans Group):

Over the last parliamentary term housebuilding has slowed down considerably: more than half a million new developments have been put on hold during the past five years and official data shows that only 19% of planning applications are processed within the recommended 13 weeks, compared with 57% a decade ago. Because around half of new affordable housing (which includes shared ownership) is delivered through conditions imposed on development through ‘planning gain’, the reduction in housebuilding (through lack of demand) results directly in a reduction in shared ownership properties (the demand for which increases in a challenging market). 

5.        Leasehold reform

The Leasehold and Freehold Reform Act

Robert Poole, Director, Glide (part of LRG):

For years, the leasehold system has been a topic of contention, leaving homeowners and managers of blocks of flats grappling with uncertainties. The Leasehold and Freehold Reform Act aims to introduce measures to increase leaseholders’ rights, provide them with more control over their properties, and make lease extensions more affordable. It heralds a landmark shift in the leasehold system and a future in which  homeowners are granted greater autonomy over their homes, with reduced costs and red tape.

So it is good news that the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Act has passed into legislation imminently despite many other Bills falling victim of the general election’s timing.

As leasehold reform moves forward, the changes will undoubtedly create some challenges. A thoughtful and comprehensive approach that consults widely with practitioners, leaseholders and freeholders and considers all potential challenges is necessary to make the transition as smooth as possible.

6.        Funding of affordable housing

Land value capture to fund affordable housing

Jason Farrimond, Director, Land & New Homes:

The idea of using land value capture to fund affordable housing is controversial and various questions have been raised about it’s viability.

That aside, the fact is that if a means existed whereby local authorities could fund all social and affordable housing – as they did in the 1970s – the development market would pick up very quickly.

7.        Levelling up

A renewed focus on levelling up

Jason Farrimond, Director, Land & New Homes:

It is interesting to consider whether levelling up had the intended impact on the market. The housing market is certainly far from level, with pockets of extreme unaffordability having extreme consequences on demographics – a lack of key workers to staff hospitals in the Thames Valley, and schools closing in London due to a lack of pupils.

Levelling up requires more than just houses: its premise was that transport and employment infrastructure combined with new homes would encourage people to leave the areas of extreme unaffordability for a better life elsewhere. But so far the transport and employment infrastructure – the basic ingredients of a successful community – are yet to materialise. Whether a new government wishes to press ahead the slogan of ‘levelling up’ these are fundamentals that must be addressed.

8.        Strategic land and planning

Green Belt review

Ian Barnett, National Land Director, Leaders Romans Group:

Addressing the housing shortfall, does not require for the Green Belt to be reduced, simply reviewed.

A review would make much better use of less attractive areas the Green Belt. Keir Starmer has recently referred to this as the ‘Grey Belt’. In reality there is no ‘belt’ of disused petrol stations and quarries – it’s a much more complex picture whereby large areas of Green Belt are speckled with grey dots.

However, the principle is a sensible one: identifying areas ripe for development. At the same time there is a strong case for identifying and protecting valuable greenfield land including national parks, agricultural land and woodlands, which are rightly appreciated. In fact a review of the Green Belt need not mean a reduction of the Green Belt, simply a change in its boundaries.

It’s important to consider how the benefits of the Green Belt can be delivered closer to people’s homes, specifically the inclusion of high quality natural landscapes within and around residential developments which addresses both sustainability and social objectives. Many new developments now do so very effectively – infinitely more so than the housing developments of the 80s and 90s. And the new requirement that new developments achieve a 10% biodiversity uplift is a step in the right direction.

With housebuilding believed to be at its lowest level since the Second World War and affordability compounded by high interest rates, high build costs, labour shortages and the removal of Help to Buy, a solution to the housing crisis is urgently needed. Of course a Green Belt review is not a panacea, but since the issue has become one of the emotive issues in what has become an unnecessarily emotive debate, some more moderate dialogue would be an important step in the right direction.

Remove politics from planning decisions

Ian Barnett, National Land Director, Leaders Romans Group:

The process from a Local Plan allocation to a digger on site typically stretches beyond the length four-year political term, and yet it is all too easily derailed, or substantially delayed, by short-term political thinking and parochial bias.

Democracy has had an active role in planning since the first Town and Country Planning Act in 1947. I am not endorsing a US-style, market-led approach to planning which deprives local residents from having a say in the future of their communities. But politics should not be fought on the basis of which party has the strongest anti-development stance.

While there is undoubtedly a role for local voices in development decisions, it is clear from the new towns delivery programme, which required an Act of Parliament and the establishment of development corporations, that housing figures are only ever truly met when decisions are taken outside the remit of local authorities.

The return of the National Infrastructure Committee and an ‘infrastructure first’ approach which brings together infrastructure, housing, energy and climate change in a de-politicised environment to expedite the creation of new settlements would be a significant step in the right direction in reforming the planning system. In removing the influence of politics in the allocation of land there is much that we could learn from the German or Dutch systems.  Germany’s strategic planning decisions are made through a series of regional plans at a federal level; the Netherlands has a system more akin to a single national plan.  Both countries are seen as having exemplary planning systems which allows development to proceed largely unhampered by political interference.

A regional (or even national) approach to planning

Ian Barnett, National Land Director, Leaders Romans Group:

Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) are the best example of regional planning that we have seen to date. Established a spatial vision and strategy specific to a region, they included the identification of areas for development with a 20 year timescale while also providing direction for Local Development Frameworks on a local (borough / district) level.

The RSSs provided a cohesive approach to housing targets and transport planning and regionally-specific policies in a way which is so problematic within the two-tier system.  Even then, politics hampered progress: they were never allowed time to crystallise and were ultimately withdrawn before they had chance to come to fruition. 

As the new towns programme shows, when planning works, it is top-down, rather than bottom up.  Ideally, a national spatial plan is required to kick-start development and properly plan for development that this country needs.

Mandatory housing targets

Lawrence Turner, Director, Boyer:

First and foremost, re-introducing mandatory housing targets for local authorities is crucial. Local councillors should not bear the burden of determining housing need in their communities, especially when faced with opposition from a vocal minority opposed to housing. By setting clear and objective housing targets at the national level, local authorities can focus on delivering the necessary housing in their district, without being swayed by local political pressures.

Regional planning

Lawrence Turner, Director, Boyer:

In conjunction with mandatory housing targets, the reintroduction of regional planning is essential. Co-ordinating housing and infrastructure needs at the regional level will ensure a more sustainable and co-ordinated approach to development, leading to better outcomes for both residents and the environment.

National Green Belt Review

Lawrence Turner, Director, Boyer:

A National Green Belt Review is also imperative in ensuring that the most sustainable patterns of development are reflected in Local Plans. By prioritising sustainability and assessing the most appropriate locations for residential development closer to jobs and transport hubs, we can help reduce the need to travel and meet local authorities’ net zero carbon targets.

The creation of new towns

Lawrence Turner, Director, Boyer:

The creation of new towns is another key point that must not be overlooked. By reintroducing the concept of New Towns, we can effectively address the growing housing need while maintaining the integrity of Green Belts and preventing urban sprawl.

Reversing recent policy changes in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

Lawrence Turner, Director, Boyer:

Reversing recent policy changes in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is crucial to increasing housing delivery in the short term. The current relaxation of housing land supply requirements is only exacerbating the housing crisis. It is essential to revert to the previous standards to ensure that enough homes are being built to meet local needs.

5 year land supply

Tim Foreman, Managing Director of Land and New Homes, Leaders Romans Group:

Even the target of 300,000 new homes a year (which was set ten years ago) is too low to meet the need for new homes. The next government must reinstate the mandatory five-year land supply for local planning authorities and toughen the NPPF to give it real teeth at the very least, in the hope of meeting this target.

New towns

Tim Foreman, Managing Director of Land and New Homes, Leaders Romans Group:

One of the ways in which the housing target can be met (and a necessary initiative if the extreme need is to be met) is through a national programme of new towns, including giving local mayors more powers over planning and funding. Too many proposals for new towns have been in the planning system for decades only to be refused – years of work lost in a single planning committee decision. Labour has talked of a planning passport and fast track approval for high density development on brownfield land. Again, this is a necessary tool in increasing housing delivery.

9.        Planning

Increasing resourcing for local planning authorities

Lawrence Turner, Director, Boyer:

Increasing resourcing for local planning authorities is also a priority. With understaffed and underfunded authorities, continued delays in planning applications and local plan preparation are inevitable. By providing financial support and investing in the necessary skills and expertise within local authorities, we can ensure that the planning system functions effectively.

Introduce mandatory Section 106 standard template agreements

Lawrence Turner, Director, Boyer:

Introducing mandatory Section 106 standard template agreements and increasing funding for legal professionals within local authorities will help streamline the planning process and reduce delays in granting permissions for developments. By avoiding reliance on temporary staff and ensuring swift agreement on necessary s106 terms, construction of new homes can begin sooner.

Progress in AI

Lawrence Turner, Director, Boyer:

Leveraging AI technology to aid in processing planning applications and engaging with local communities on planning decisions is another innovative approach that can improve the efficiency and transparency of the planning system. By using digital communication channels and social media, local authorities can effectively communicate with residents and involve them in the decision-making and plan-making processes.

A resolution to the phosphates crisis

Lawrence Turner, Director, Boyer:

Finally, legislating to address the impacts of phosphates on residential developments is essential. By tackling this issue at the source through collaboration with Water Companies, we can remove unnecessary barriers that prevent much-needed housing developments from moving forward.”

Bring back proper determination of planning applications by local authorities

Tim Foreman, Managing Director of Land and New Homes, Leaders Romans Group:

Following recent changes to the NPPF and other contradictory planning policies, an increasing number of planning applications are being decided at appeal – taking decision-making out of local people’s hands and resulting in some uneven and contradictory decisions. Planning reform is needed to bring about more consistency.

10.    Political direction

Genuine reform

Kevin Shaw, National Sales Managing Director, Leaders Romans Group:

Our industry is jaundiced by soundbites, a revolving door of housing ministers and policy announcements which fail to materialise. If a new government can reverse these factors it would be off to a promising start.

Appoint a Minister for the Housing Crisis

Lawrence Turner, Director, Boyer:

Creating a new Governmental department focused on tackling the housing crisis, along with appointing a Minister for the Housing Crisis, will help drive the agenda forward and ensure that the issue remains a top priority. With a dedicated department, plans to build more homes in sustainable locations can be properly implemented.