Planning policy overhaul unlikely under new Government

As the UK wakes up this morning to a new Government led by David Cameron and without reliance upon the support of Lib Dems – now an endangered species – what might be the implications for planning, development and property, asks Gary Halman, managing partner at HOW Planning in Manchester.

The Tories were the architects of the National Planning Policy Framework and so the prospect of any significant changes to policy seem pretty remote now. This is particularly so given that the recommendations of the Select Committee's review of the effectiveness of the NPPF, led by Clive Betts MP, were firmly rejected by the Government only a few weeks ago. There seems no appetite for change, whether wholesale or even more minor refinement as Betts' had recommended.

In some senses the strengthened support for Conservatives nationally is truly remarkable given the loudly expressed concerns of communities in many Tory shires about the amount of housing allowed – much on appeal – on greenfield sites. Maybe this reflects that it can be small numbers of neighbours who make their views known vocally, whereas more generally there is a recognition that more housing, including affordable homes, is desperately needed.

A flagship new policy announced in the Conservative manifesto is the right for tenants of housing associations to buy their properties. More detail will emerge in the future, but there must be concern that this could lead to an overall reduction in affordable housing despite the acute shortages which already exist in many parts of the country. Providing new stock to address this and make inroads into the shortfalls is likely to be a key issue and topic for debate going forward as details of this policy initiative emerge.

On a broader front the astonishing results in Scotland fuel the need for rapid progress on the devolution of powers to that country as well as Wales. Allied to this perhaps we will see more English regions press for devolution and greater autonomy, following the pioneering approach of Greater Manchester, including assuming strategic planning powers for themselves.

Finally the Conservatives have always stressed their support for the green belt, although this is tempered by a recognition that it is perfectly alright to look afresh at detailed boundaries where housing needs require it.

And we can confidently expect to see a continuing drive on the neighbourhood planning front, building on the greatly increased levels of activity that have characterised last year. This is a cornerstone of Conservative planning policy nationally, although is one area where some reform is urgently needed to iron out unintended consequences.

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