An insight into what the Labour Manifesto means for Planning in the UK

As the date of the general election looms, the general consensus of a Labour victory remains. Now only a few days away, the Daniel Watney planning team has given an insight as to how this result could affect the property industry and our clients in planning terms.

Under Labour’s five missions to rebuild Britain, No.1 is to ‘Kickstart economic growth’, within which a key objective is ‘Planning reforms to build 1.5 million new homes’ over the course of the 5 years. Under this objective, relevant reforms proposed relate to the following (non-exhaustive) list:

  1. Immediate changes to the NPPF:
    • Restoring mandatory housing targets;
    • Ensuring that Local Plans are up to date; and
    • Strengthening the presumption in favour of sustainable development (the tilted balance)
  2. Where necessary, make "full use" of intervention powers to build housing.
  3. Adopting a ‘brownfield first approach, prioritising the development of PDL wherever possible…’, as well as preserving important parts of the Green Belt (GB) and releasing lower quality ‘grey belt’ subject to introduced ‘golden rules’;
  4. Further reform of Compulsory Purchase Rules to improve land assembly by awarding "fair" compensation rather than inflated prices based on the prospect of planning permission.
  5. Substantially increase social and affordable housing. Support for councils to increase the supply of affordable housing, including reviewing the right to buy and by protecting newly built social housing.
  6. Support for exemplary design as the norm.

Labour’s manifesto identifies the current planning regime “as a major brake on economic growth”. As such, should the party win an overall majority, it is expected that identified reforms will come into effect early on. Labour’s manifesto states that while they will seek to ensure local communities have a say on housebuilding in their area, where necessary, they “…will not be afraid to make full use of intervention powers to build the houses we need,” suggesting potential for available/previously identified housing schemes being called in as a statement of intent.

The majority of identified changes relate to policy, not legislation and are more easily amended, however if the labour Government are truly serious about reaping the rewards of overall ‘kickstarting economic growth’ and enacting changes to legislation such as their ‘Take Back Control’ bill which seeks to devolve new powers to local communities and allow “towns and cities to develop credible, long-term growth plans”, this will likely need to be initiated early on within Labour’s term.

It is worth noting that such planning reforms are not exclusively to the benefit of housing developers either. Within Labour’s manifesto, explicit mention is made to removing the planning barriers to new datacentres and for the need to update national planning policy to meet the needs of a modern economy “…making it easier to build laboratories, digital infrastructure and gigafactories”, as some examples.”

(Photo credit James Feaver – Unsplash)

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