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Rebecca Mushing

Senior Associate, Wright Hassall

The impact of the new government on housing and planning in the first 100 days

The impact of the new government on housing and planning in the first 100 days


With a new Labour government now confirmed, Rebecca Mushing, specialist planning lawyer at Midlands-based Wright Hassall, looks at what this could mean for housing and the wider planning sector

After much debate and campaigning, we now know that Labour will be forming the next government after winning the General Election. The promise was made that change will come within 100 days of Labour being elected. Let the countdown commence.

Labour has made a number of promises in relation to housing and the planning sector, covering everything from delivering 1.5 million homes over the next parliament and pledging to fund an additional 300 planning officers, to releasing lower-quality land from the greenbelt for housing and giving combined authorities more powers over planning.

The party has also promised to reform Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) rules to ensure landowners are awarded fair compensation rather than the uplifted development value which Labour say will make housebuilding easier and less expensive, and to develop an infrastructure strategy to ensure major projects are delivered faster.

But a lot of the promises contained in Labour’s manifesto lack detail on how they will be delivered. We expect that some of this detail may be forthcoming in the King’s Speech, currently scheduled for July 17. However, Labour has expressed clear intention to flex its political muscle if needed.

So how many of Labour’s promises will we actually see and when? Some of Labour’s proposals relate to updating existing planning policies and reversing others. This process is likely to take time and will require consultation. Consultation is key in making sure the system will work for all those involved.

The planning system is crying out for positive change. The current system is having catastrophic consequences on SMEs in particular who are struggling to deal with the cost and delay in the system.

Whilst the system needs work and improvement, the one single change that could help would be the proper resourcing of council planning and accompanying legal departments giving them the expertise and capacity to deal with applications.

The constant turnover of staff being lost to the private sector is hampering the speed and quality of decisions, so the proposed investment in case officer resource is a welcome one, albeit it will take time. To have impact, it will also be essential for this funding to be ring-fenced so that the investment is not used in other protected areas of the council.

What is clear is that the effectiveness of the planning system will be reflected in the number of new homes that can be built, so well-thought-out changes need to be made to ensure that these can be delivered to help alleviate the current housing crisis.

In-depth look at some of the promises made by Labour


Labour has promised to deliver 1.5 million new homes over the next parliament. To achieve this target, they have proposed measures which include: restoring mandatory housing targets; ensuring Local Plans are up to date; reforming and strengthening the National Planning Policy Framework’s presumption in favour of sustainable development; and delivering a “new generation of new towns” which, alongside regeneration and urban extension projects, will form part of new communities.

They have also pledged to fund an additional 300 planning officers by increasing the rate of the stamp duty surcharge paid by non-UK residents by one per cent. But will these additional funds be ring-fenced, or will cash-strapped councils deploy the funds to other protected areas of the council such as social care? And how long will the inevitable delay be while the additional planning officers are trained and up and running?

The Labour manifesto emphasised delivery of more social and affordable housing by strengthening planning obligations on new developments which will provide for more affordable homes. This is also while protecting existing and newly-built affordable housing stock from the existing right to buy regime – a regime which currently takes affordable stock out of the system without being replaced, thus contributing to the worsening housing crisis. So, it will be interesting to see how this will work in practice and if Labour can avoid exacerbating it.

Greenbelt land

The greenbelt is always a controversial topic, but we are at a point in time with the housing crisis that a meaningful review needs to be undertaken. This needs to balance the protection of quality greenbelt land and releasing lower-grade greenbelt land to deliver housing.

The party promises to adopt a brownfield-first approach with a fast-track route for approval of urban brownfield sites. It also pledges to take a more strategic approach to greenbelt land designation and plans to release the lower quality land from the greenbelt and reclassify this as “greybelt” land. While we are lacking in detail, it would appear that this is a sensible starting approach to the release of greenbelt.

Cross-boundary strategic planning

There will be a requirement for all Combined and Mayoral Authorities to work together to plan for housing growth in their areas, but haven’t we been here before with regional planning?! Labour hopes to facilitate this by giving Combined Authorities new planning powers to make better use of grant funding. Again, there is a lack of detail on what these new powers or mechanisms may include.

Labour has promised to transfer power out of Westminster and give more autonomy to local authorities in the form of a Take Back Control Act. Specifically in relation to planning Labour has said they will look to “consolidate powers to allow for improved decision making”.

Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) compensation

Labour has promised to reform CPO rules by ensuring landowners are awarded fair compensation for specific schemes and by speeding up site delivery, housing and infrastructure. But what does fair compensation mean? It could mean less compensation, with existing use value being used rather than the uplifted development value, or “hope value”, if a landowner could establish the principle of consent for development. Labour is arguing this would make house building easier and less expensive.

Having had experience with landowners affected by HS2, one would hope that this could be an opportunity to learn lessons.

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