Change. Labour Party Manifesto 2024

What Next for Reforming the Planning System?

Change. Labour Party Manifesto 2024

What Next for Reforming the Planning System?
The announcement of the July General Election all but called time on the Conservative Government’s efforts to introduce changes to the planning system via new legislation. Labour’s direction of travel on planning reform was outlined in its manifesto as part of a wider agenda of “Change”, although unsurprisingly, there was an absence of detail in lieu of an overriding tactic of playing it safe.

What Labour was clear about in their manifesto was that “The current planning regime acts as a major brake on economic growth” and the proposals they offered provided a strong indication on the direction of travel. We have trawled their 136-page manifesto and summarise their proposals below:

1. Get Britain building again, creating jobs across England, with 1.5 million new homes over the next parliament.
2. Make the changes needed to forge ahead with new roads, railways, reservoirs, and other nationally significant infrastructure.
3. Set out new national policy statements, make major projects faster and cheaper by slashing red tape, and build support for developments by ensuring communities directly benefit.
4. Update national planning policy to ensure the planning system meets the needs of a modern economy, making it easier to build laboratories, digital infrastructure, and gigafactories.
5. Immediately update the National Policy Planning Framework to undo the most recent changes, including restoring mandatory housing targets.
6. Take action to ensure that planning authorities have up-to-date Local Plans and reform and strengthen the presumption in favour of sustainable development.
7. Support local authorities by funding additional planning officers, through increasing the rate of the stamp duty surcharge paid by non-UK residents.
8. Ensure local communities continue to shape housebuilding in their area, but where necessary, make full use of intervention powers to build new houses.
9. Take a brownfield first approach, prioritising the development of previously used land wherever possible, and fast-tracking approval of urban brownfield sites. But Labour acknowledge that brownfield development alone will not be enough to meet our housing need.
10. Without changing the Green Belt’s purpose or general extent, Labour intends to take a more strategic approach to greenbelt land designation and release to build more homes. The release of lower quality ‘grey belt’ land which they describe as being the “poor-quality and ugly areas of green belt which should be clearly prioritised over nature-rich, environmentally valuable land.”
11. Build a new generation of new towns. Alongside urban extensions and regeneration projects, these will form part of a series of large-scale new communities across England.
12. Introduce new mechanisms for cross-boundary strategic planning in order to deliver growth on a larger than local scale.
13. Further reform compulsory purchase compensation rules to improve land assembly, speed up site delivery, and deliver housing, infrastructure, amenity, and transport benefits in the public interest.
14. Deliver the biggest increase in social and affordable housebuilding in a generation and strengthen planning obligations to ensure new developments provide more affordable homes.
15. Ensure exemplary development is the norm not the exception by building more high-quality, well-designed, and sustainable homes and creating places that increase climate resilience and promote nature recovery.
16. Implement solutions to unlock the building of homes affected by nutrient neutrality without weakening environmental protections.

To begin moving towards achieving some of the above, new legislation in the form of a ‘Towns Bill’ is expected to be a priority which will focus on delivering new towns as well as a broader raft of planning measures.

In the short term, the industry awaits the immediate updating of the National Policy Planning Framework with interest. Labour set themselves a target of 100 days to publish the update and the clock is ticking. However, a new version in such a short timescale is, in reality, likely to represent more of a holding position.

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