Back our “use-it-or-lose-it” planning bill, Labour tells Conservative rebels

Elliot Chappell
© Palatinate Stock/

Labour has called on Tory backbenchers to back its own “use-it-or-lose-it” legislation that would aim to speed up housebuilding and protect the right of local communities to have a say over planning applications in their areas.

The opposition party will introduce the planning and local representation bill on Wednesday, which would impose stricter time limits on permissions once granted and give residents “the right to fair hearing in planning applications”.

The bill follows Labour’s criticism of the government over its proposed planning reforms, which would see different areas designated within local plans into three distinct zones for planning purposes: protected; renewal or growth.

Protected zones will include areas defined nationally, such as green belt land, and others designated locally on the basis of national policy, with development allowed within restrictions to be set out by the national planning policy framework.

Renewal zones are to cover existing built areas where smaller scale developments are deemed to be appropriate. Development would be enabled through a mixture of permitted development and ‘permission in principle’.

Growth zones will be those seen as “suitable for substantial development”. Initial planning permission would automatically be given to developers with details agreed by officials, cutting out public objections from local residents.

Steve Reed has argued that the “Conservatives plan to pay back developers by selling out communities” with its proposed reforms to the planning system and residents would be “gagged from objecting to inappropriate and oversized developments so developers can make vast profits at local people’s expense”.

“That’s the opposite of the partnership between communities, councils and developers that is the bedrock of regeneration that works in everyone’s interests,” the Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary said.

“If the government really wanted to build more homes, they’d encourage developers to build the million homes that already have planning permission but haven’t been built.”

LGA research published last year showed that more than one million homes granted planning permission in the preceding decade had not been built. 2,564,600 had been granted planning permission, but only 1,530,680 were completed.

Labour’s bill would introduce a two-year time limit on planning permissions. Permissions are usually granted subject to time limits set out in a planning condition. Under s. 91 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, there is currently a default time limit of three years for a full planning permission.

The appeal to Tory MPs today follows the launch of a campaign against the “developers’ charter” reforms in a speech to the Local Government Association, in which Reed said: “Our concerns are shared by councillors of all political parties.”

He used the address to encourage all local authorities, including Conservative-run councils, to use formal council motions to voice their opposition to the government plans and create a united front able to defeat governments’s proposals.

Labour used an opposition day debate last month to call on the government to “protect the right of communities to object to individual planning applications”. Its non-binding motion was passed as Tory MPs were instructed to abstain.

The opposition day motion was tabled last month amid growing pressure on government ministers over the planning reforms – from Conservative backbenchers after their Chesham and Amersham by-election defeat to the Lib Dems.

The Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary attributed the Lib Dem victory, in a constituency held by the Conservatives since its creation in 1974, to residents’ unhappiness with the planning reforms proposed by the government.

Labour’s attacks on the reforms, portraying them as a move by the Conservatives to “sell off and sell out our communities”, have been criticised themselves, however, by those in the party who see it as appealing to nimbyism.

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