Labour launches campaign against “developers’ charter” planning reforms

Elliot Chappell
© Alexandru Nika/Shutterstock.com

Steve Reed is set to invite all local authorities to help force a government U-turn on controversial planning reforms, declaring in a keynote speech that “our concerns are shared by councillors of all political parties”.

Addressing the Local Government Association conference on Wednesday, Reed will tell councillors that the Tory planning reforms are a “stark example of their impulse to deprive communities of power rather than empower them”.

He will say: “We know our concerns are shared by councillors of all political parties, so we’re asking councils to make their voices heard. If we work together, we can protect the rights of residents to have a say over their own streets and their own local green spaces. All residents are asking for is a voice, not a veto.”

Reed is expected 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 the “developers’ charter”.

He will also promise to introduce legislation ensuring that communities have a say over development in their area and that the length of time for which planning permission is granted is reduced to stop developers ‘land-banking’ instead of building.

Labour’s Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary will tell the LGA conference: “There’s no doubt we need to build more housing, particularly good quality homes that people can afford to rent or buy.

“But the problem isn’t the planning system – if there’s a problem to be fixed, its incentivising developers to go ahead and develop, rather than sitting on rising land values with a view to selling it on in the future.

“That’s why Labour will bring forward a ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ bill to the House of Commons next week, and challenge the government to back it.”

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.

The proposed system, outlined in a white paper published by the government last year, 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 be automatically given to developers with details agreed by officials, cutting out public objections from local residents.

Labour used a recent opposition day debate 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 defeat to the Lib Dems.

Reed attributed the Lib Dem victory in the by-election, 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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