Last edited 07 Oct 2013

Labour party conference 2013

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Rebekah Paczek from Snapdragon Consulting assesses what Labour had to say at their 2013 party conference.

So, the week of Labour Party conference started with Damian McBride choosing to launch his memoirs – although he was at pains to stress that the intention was not to over-shadow the Labour conference. Given the revelations of lies, manipulation and skullduggery in the book we can obviously take his word on that as the Bible truth… The excitement levels increased as blogger and publisher of said memoirs, Ian Dale, had a scrap with a pensioner on the promenade. The pensioner's dog seemed to come out of the whole thing with the most self-respect and dignity.

On development and housing, Ed was awash with cliches. You always know it's a paper thin policy when the phrase 'New Towns' is used. Always promised, never delivered. However, not wanting practicalities to get in the way of a good soundbite he announced a 'Use It or Lose It' policy which would apparently stop land hoarding (that would be the phantom land hoarding that no studies commissioned by any government has yet managed to prove exists). This policy would apparently help to produce an additional 200,000 new homes a year and would create the next generation of New Towns.

The additional 200,000 homes will apparently be delivered by abolishing top down targets and letting local communities decide. Ah yes, remember that meeting you went to recently where the local community pro-actively agreed to allow an additional 1,500 homes to be built within their Parish boundaries?

However, never fear, the word on the street is that there will be some eye-catching commitments on new housing in the Labour Party manifesto including 'innovatory approaches to funding and changes to the macroeconomic framework which governs housing'. Take from that what you will. Housing is apparently a top priority for Labour - which it was for Gordon Brown who's first three words in office were 'housing, housing, housing' as if saying it three times would be like the click of Dorothy's red shoes and deliver the development by magic. As part of this new old Labour proposal there is a new commission which is imaginatively called 'Rebuilding Britain' – nothing like harking back to the post–Blitz era to get that warm and fuzzy feeling inside. The commission will be chaired by Sir Michael Lyons and will develop a 'road map' to look at:

  • Giving councils proper CPP to tackle land hoarding and the ability to charge developers escalating fees where they bank land with planning permission.
  • Delivering New Towns and Garden Cities in specific locations across the country. (Obviously this would work well with no top down targets and allowing communities to decide)
  • Giving local authorities a 'right to grow' with access to a fast-track planning process to resolve disputes with neighbouring authorities blocking development. (Surely that's called PINS??)
  • Giving communities a greater share of the benefits from development (Presumably based on the community funding already apportioned from CIL, or perhaps Labour haven't read the small print on that?)

So, it would seem that this is beginning to form the skeleton of Labour planning and housing policy for the election 2015. It is still unclear what the party would propose to do with the NPPF so there is still excitement to come…

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