Last edited 14 Oct 2014

Political round-up October 2014

Rebekah Paczek profile image.jpg

Rebekah Paczek from snapdragon consulting takes a look at the party conferences and by elections and considers what it all means for planning and development.


As the silly season of the summer ended we went straight into conference season followed by by-election season. All really as silly as each other as the political parties turned their collective (and frequently myopic) eyes towards May 2015.

Out of the melee, over the past few weeks there have been some important announcements and intentions declared which could have a fundamental impact on planning and development.

Green for Danger

The Conservatives are clearly looking to shore up their core middle England vote – a vote which is under increasing pressure from UKIP. As a result, despite repeatedly publicly declaring the need for more housing and the commitment to the house-building programme, they announced this week that actually, greenbelt can be more important than housing need and local authorities shouldn’t feel the need to release greenbelt land for something so minor as housing our growing population. All those overlooking the acres and acres of unspoilt golf courses in Surrey can breathe a sigh of relief…

Homes for People

However, David Cameron would like it to be known that he is absolutely focused on getting people on the housing ladder. Cameron is going to build 100,000 starter homes on brownfield land. Although what I’m confused about is where all this brownfield land is, Government & the anti-development lobby has conveniently forgotten that a significant amount of brownfield land is actually in the greenbelt. Or in areas where people either don’t want to live or without sufficient infrastructure to make it sustainable.

Apparently 400,000 homes are also to be built in London without affecting the greenbelt as well, which makes sense as London is renowned for being quite under-developed with predominantly low density development across the city…

Still, there is a difference between real promises and election promises just so long as this sees them over the line in May it can then die a silent death, much like third party rights of appeal did in 2010.

Never one to appeal to a populist cause, Cameron is introducing interest free loans for house deposits to members of the armed forces.

DCLG is still trying to persuade local authorities to pilot the ‘bribe the neighbours’ scheme which it ingeniously developed earlier this year. So far the take up of those willing to commit to paying off individual householders on a mass scale has been zero. I can’t think why…

The Old Ones are the Best

Labour’s grand plan appears to be the reincarnation of Urban Development Corporations, renamed as New Homes Corporations – crafty, no one will suspect this is a an old policy dusted off and brought back to the table rather than something new, along with the reintroduction of brownfield first. In addition, a mansion tax and rent controls and the work of the Labour Party is done. Miliband has yet to get over his obsession with landbanking so appears utterly unable to come up with any other policies. However, we wait with bated breath for the outcome of the Lyons Review, it is sure to be groundbreaking.

A Way to Ruin A Good Walk

Vince Cable clearly shares the view of Mark Twain when it comes to golf, stating that ‘sacred’ golf courses should be built on in order to supply new housing. The Lib Dems sought to put clear water between themselves and the Tories and managed to dig a massive ravine; both parties look set to line up on either side and throw themselves over like lemmings.

Danny Alexander wants government to have a ‘direct role’ in building 300,000 new homes a year with 50,000 being created in the Home Counties along the Oxford-Cambridge train line.

They also want a mansion tax so watch out for a period of strange home valuations in the future.

The People are Revolting!

UKIP also seemed to push the brownfield first agenda and, along with every politician, journalist and commentator around either deliberately or mistakenly conflates greenfield with greenbelt. Not to worry, because under a UKIP government, any major development could have its planning permission overturned by a petition containing the signatures of 5% of the borough.

Coming Soon

We have the Autumn Statement on 3rd December and will be doing a detailed review of the emerging and published party manifestos when they appear. The fun never ends…