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Election special: a planning summary of the manifestos

by on April 30, 2015

A commitment to Garden Cities – not to mention towns and suburbs – is a feature of some of  the current crop of  election manifestos with the most gung-ho proposals outlined by the Lib Dems and Labour.

However, neither the Green Party nor UKIP are flying the flag for 21st century versions of Ebenezer Howard’s ideas.

All five parties want to see more brownfield development for new housing and promise continued or greater protection for the green belt. The Conservatives would create a brownfield regeneration fund.

In terms of housing supply – a key issue – there is no consensus on numbers.

Labour is promising one million new homes by 2020 and have promised to implement the recommendations of the Lyons Commission.

The Lib Dems  want a strategy involving 300,000 new homes a year while the Conservatives have plans for 200,000 new Starter Homes as well as an aspiration of 120,000 new homes courtesy of its Help to Buy initiative plus a further 95,000 as part of the Housing Zone regime, already signalled.  The party has also confirmed move to establish London Land Commission.

The Greens want to “break up” what they call the “big builder cartels” and would oversee the provision of 500,000 social rented homes. UKIP has set its sights on one million new homes built on brownfield land and would offer grants of up to £10,000 a unit to help developers remediate contaminated sites.

Labour is proposing “greater transparency” in the land market and would give local authorities new “use it or lose it” powers to encourage more building.  It favours a strengthened “brownfield first” policy but would “respect local decision making over green belt configuration”. All five of the UK-wide political parties want to see more custom-build activity.

Neither Labour nor the Conservatives are proposing radical or comprehensive changes to the planning system.

The Conservatives want more neighbourhood planning and a stronger Right to Bid regime. Labour says it will give local communities more power to shape the High Streets and councils more powers over the   clustering of payday lenders and other retail categories.

For major changes you will have to look at the Lib Dems, the Greens and UKIP. The Green Party would repeal the National Planning Policy Framework and its presumption in favour of economic development.

UKIP would replace the NPPF and “introduce fresh new planning guidelines “with a “presumption in favour of conservation” instead of the NPPF’s backing for development.

UKIP wants to give local people control over planning through the use of binding local referenda on such proposals as large out-of-town supermarkets, wind turbines, incinerators, solar farms and major housing schemes. It would merge planning and building control departments.

The Conservatives have committed to ending onshore wind subsidies and would ensure that local people would have the final say on wind farm applications. They also want to give local businesses more say over minor planning applications.

Both the Greens and the Lib Dems want a community right of appeal in some circumstances. The former also wants to restrict ministerial call-ins and greater local authority powers over change of use. The Lib Dems would scrap the recent extension of permitted development to offices to homes conversions and would “end ideologically motivated interference in local planning decisions for wind farms by government ministers”.

The party also wants statutory 15-year housing plans, more cooperation by neighbouring authorities over housing provision and more restricted appeal arrangements for developers. It would update planning law by introducing the concept of so-called “landscape-scale planning”  to make sure new developments promote walking , cycling, car-sharing and public transport, while improving rather than diminishing access to green spaces.

The Greens would make the planning system ensure that everyone lives within five minutes walk of a green open space and oblige Government departments and local authorities to consider climate change and carbon reduction in all their planning activities and with a long term horizon of 50-100 years. All local authority planning decisions would adopt that timescale.

The Lib Dems would expand “accessible green space” with new National Nature Parks chosen by the public. The Conservatives have promised a “pocket parks” programme while Labour also wants the local planning system to promote green spaces.

The Conservatives remain firmly behind HS2 and Crossrail 2. Labour still supports the former. Both the Greens and UKIP would scrap HS2. The Greens don’t want any new airport capacity. Labour wants a new National Infrastructure Commission which, amongst other things, would prioritise investment in flood prevention and the party has promised tougher controls over fracking.

The Conservatives would create a sovereign wealth fund for the North of England bankrolled from unconventional oil and gas development, including fracking. It blows warm on more City Deals.

The Lib Dems are committed to introducing a Land Value Tax which would replace Business Rates in the long term.

Access the main parties manifestos on the following links:




Liberal Democrats



Roger Milne

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