PRESS RELEASE – 25 November 2014 – Labour’s Shadow Communities Minister shared its house building vision with planning experts today and promised to remove roadblocks to land usage.

Shadow Minister for Communities & Local Government Roberta Blackman-Woods MP, told the Kings Chambers 2014 Planning Conference in Manchester that if elected next year, she will focus on the role the planning system can play in boosting the supply of new housing, which she said currently stood at 243,000 homes required per year. She argued for the planning system to “return to its visionary roots and to retain a strong focus on place-making”.

Roberta stopped short of identifying a “villain” per se and discussed the findings of the recent Lyons Housing Review, released last month, which outlines the policies that Labour would introduce in a new Housing and Planning Bill if elected next May.

“There are many barriers to development, particularly those caused by dysfunction in the land market,” said Roberta.“The Lyons Review identified stalled sites and not enough land coming forward for development as key sources of the chronic under-supply of new homes. The Lyons Review proposed a number of measures, including ‘New Homes Corporations’, which would assemble land and bring it forward for development by striking deals with landowners (public and private) to include their land in new housing schemes.

“Where necessary and appropriate New Homes Corporations would have the backstop powers to acquire land on behalf of the local community using Compulsory Purchase Order powers,” she added.

Paul Tucker QC, of Kings Chambers chaired the conference and said that it was clear that Labour had thought “long and hard” about its policy framework on planning:

“We’re delighted to have had Roberta Blackman-Woods speaking at our conference. They have considered how to improve the system as it is, rather than another wholesale reform which would just add further chaos, confusion and delay in delivering more homes. They have also recognised there are good and bad things in the current system and it’s incumbent upon them to focus on the challenges which need to be addressed.

“The 243,000 a year house building targets are achievable, but there are many roadblocks in the way beyond just planning,” added Paul. “There are major challenges to be faced as a result of the differential buoyancy of the National Economy with the SE being so successful in emerging from recession”

Roberta also spoke about making a positive case for the role the planning system can play in long term housing growth, including by incorporating neighbourhood planning into the system at the earliest possible stage, and requiring local authorities to have a local plan in place, to ensure community input comes as soon as possible in the process.

“I was particularly interested in the notion of ensuring that there is a set formula to objectively assess needs,” added Paul. “This will make the delivery of plans much smoother. However more needs to be done to address neighbourhood plans; these have the potential to derail a large number of good things which are done by local planning authorities. Neighbourhood plans should be assessed on the basis of land use merits rather than the current system which is too much of a light touch approach.


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