From Ballot Boxes to Building Blocks: What could the next general election bring..

by Amanda Hayward

On Wednesday 13 March there was a Westminster Hall debate on planning reform. Matthew Pennycook MP, Shadow Minister for Housing and Planning highlighted Labour’s plans for the planning system, which we thought were quite informative.

Some of the key points he made included:

  • Pennycook agreed with the importance of properly resourcing individual local planning departments, and acknowledged it as a huge challenge at present.
  • He indicated that there was a need for enforceable housing targets to get near the Government’s target of 300,00 homes a year, he added that “a Labour Government will act decisively and early to ensure that it is undone so that we once again have a planning system geared towards meeting housing need in fullthat is absolutely a red line for us.
  • Labour believes there needs to be a discrete number of targeted changes to the existing system. This coupled with decisive action will ensure that every element of the system functions optimally and will ensure they can significantly boost housing supply and deliver 1.5 million homes over the course of the next Parliament.
  • He highlighted that Labour proposed a “a bold evolution of the planning system in England, not a complete dismantling of it”.
  • Pennycook highlighted that if we are to overcome housing delivery challenges around towns and cities with tightly drawn administrative boundaries there must be an effective mechanism for cross- boundary strategic planning, and a Labour Government will introduce one.
  • Another area he said Labour would be getting serious about was boosting local plan coverage. He said, “It is appalling that we have a local plan-led system where nearly three quarters of local plans are now not up to date—that cannot be allowed to continue”.
  • Another example is reintroducing a strategic approach to green-belt release, rather than, as he called it, “the haphazard free-for-all” that has been in place for the past 14 years.

He finished by adding, “that we need a general election so that they can make way for a Labour Government who will do what is necessary to tackle the housing crisis and boost economic growth”

Also taking part in the debate, was Daisy Cooper MP, (St Albans) whose comments and the views of the Liberal Democrats are highlighted below:

  • Regarding green belt land, Daisy commented “Some of us are very clear that there are brownfield sites and there are developed sites within the green belt, and most of our concern is about the undeveloped green-belt sites that have natural habitats.”
  • They recognised that the planning system was broken and that the Liberal Democrats were committed to overhauling the planning system.
  • The Liberal Democrats have an ambition to build 380,000 homes a year, but by adopting a bottom-up approach we would ensure that they were built in the right places and were the right homes. She highlighted that they would require councils to start by addressing their local housing need and identifying any local constraints. They believe that with approach it would include ensuring that 150,000 homes each year would be truly affordable for social rent.

Like many, we hope that once the general election has been held and the new Government prioritise the effective function of the planning system, it will provide a well needed boost to our industry! If you wish to view the full debate which is quite informative, it can be viewed here

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