Regional rail, rent controls and a second referendum: Green Party manifesto

Lewis Johnston

Parliamentary Affairs Manager (RICS)

The Green Party today launched its policy pitch for the General Election 2017, with a strong focus on affordable housing, local infrastructure investment and economic reform.


Download and read the Green Party's manifesto

With the Article 50 negotiations looming large over polling day, the Green Party has echoed the Liberal Democrats with a pledge to offer a second referendum on the final Brexit deal, with the option of the UK remaining a member. Elsewhere, there are clear policy positions across the built environment sector and a strong emphasis on ecological sustainability in all areas.

Prioritising affordable housing

The Green manifesto is short and concise at 26 pages and, in welcome recognition of the importance of the issue, there is a section dedicated entirely to housing. The focus here is a radical overhaul of the market to provide affordable homes for everyone. There are pledges to build 100,000 new social rented homes each year up to 2022, scrap Right-to-Buy and end the mass sale of council houses. The manifesto also proposes to end speculation in vacant land by introducing a Land Value Tax, reduce rents by reintroducing controls and reverse cuts to housing benefit.

The ambition to drive up supply across all tenures — with an emphasis on affordable homes — is positive, and reflects our own recommendations on housing. Elsewhere, however, the impact of these proposals is questionable. Rent controls could badly hit the supply of properties in the Private Rented Sector (PRS), thereby pushing up rents and harming the very tenants the policy seeks to protect. A better way of raising standards is to put the PRS Code of Practice into legislation as set out in our report Election 2017: Priorities for the Built Environment.

There is also doubt over how deliverable promised new homes are without an adequate supply of land. The Green Party promise "strong protection" for the Green Belt, effectively ruling out any reappraisal of potentially suitable land for development. Land Value Tax is also problematic — whilst the principle is attractive, in practice its success depends on comparable data to set land values and such data is often lacking.

Local lines, not HS2

Whilst there are no precise figures given, the Green Party has promised to invest in regional rail links and the electrification of existing lines, while scrapping HS2 and the manor roads programme. Whilst we are broadly in favour of HS2, we have also emphasised that our strategic infrastructure pipeline should be based on economic value and aim to unlock regional growth. Often this will involve less glamorous, but highly beneficial, investment in local schemes, and the Green Party is right to point this out.

On aviation, the manifesto promises to scrap airport expansion and end subsidies for airline fuel. On environmental protection, there is a commitment to invest in flood defences and natural flood management, and a large-scale programme of public works to retrofit homes with insulation. In keeping with the party’s roots in the ecology movement, the pledge to replace fracking, coal-fired power stations and nuclear plants with renewable alternatives is given real prominence.

Economic reform

Some of the most eye-catching proposals of the manifesto are found in the first chapter, ‘A green economy that works for everyone’. The Green Party will take steps towards a Universal Basic Income, phase in a four-day working week (capped at 35 hours), increase the minimum wage to £10 an hour and reform taxation with higher rates on the wealthy. Whilst it's safe to say the party won’t form the next government, proposals like these are gaining attention and will no doubt contribute to the debate on the UK's economic model.

With just over a fortnight until polling day, the Green Party will focus on retaining their current single seat in Brighton Pavilion, but also on targeting areas like Norwich and Bristol where they are relatively strong. As a smaller party, it receives less attention than the major parties, but given it quadrupled its votes at the last election it will be interesting to see how it performs on 8 June.

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