Election Fever - Some turns in Government Policy?

10th December 2014
By Mike Newton

We have had a short period of stability in Government planning policy. The NPPF has provided a strong platform to permit development that has been essential for economic recovery and growth, through its presumption in favour of sustainable development. But is a shift in policy now imminent, driven by short term political needs? In fact, is it already upon us?

There’s certainly evidence of political priorities in recent Government policy statements.

Take the recent changes to NPPG under the banner “Councils must protect our precious green belt land”. The detail is in new paragraphs 044 and 045 (“Do housing and economic needs override constraints on the use of land, such as Green Belt?” and “Do local planning authorities have to meet in full housing needs identified in needs assessments?” Government will probably say these aren’t a change in policy (being rooted in NPPF para 14 and footnote 9) but they are most definitely a change of emphasis.

These followed a Government statement back in July which changed the criteria for the Secretary of State to recover appeals to schemes of over 10 dwellings where a neighbourhood plan has been made or proposed. Eric Pickles has been making use of that provision in dismissing three recent appeals (Malmesbury, Hurstpierpoint and Sayers Common) to reduce the force of the 5 year land supply requirement. In these cases, although there is no five year land supply, it has been judged "appropriate to give local people an opportunity to ensure they got the right types of development for their community, while also planning positively to support strategic development needs."

And on 9th October we had the Clacton by-election. UKIP has an anti-development platform (based on the belief that the demand for homes is driven by immigration). Will Conservatives, now threatened and insecure by the advance of UKIP, find it necessary to jump on an anti-development bandwagon to help save votes.

But, the economic fundamentals have not changed. Increased housing supply and land for economic development are essential for a stable growing economy (to say nothing of meeting basic human needs). Government must be reminded of that and not make policy changes for the purposes of the election that we may all live to regret.

Election Fever.jpg
30-Logo-small.jpg (1)