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Manifestos – start planning now!

Planning Communications and Consultation
general election 2024

Before the election was called, prevailing wisdom was that housing would feature prominently in this campaign. The reason being that housing affordability has become such a challenge for enough people (and newspaper editors’ offsprings) that a significant proportion of voters would decide on this issue.

It’s not quite been the case since the election was called, overtaken by D-Day controversy, childhoods without Sky TV, toolmaking, and Reform’s new/old leader. But it’s worth remembering that about the same time that Sunak was preparing to announce the election, Labour’s Angela Rayner was setting out plans for New Towns at UKREiiF (SEC Newgate had also launched our Planning Barometer earlier that day).

More on New Towns from us at a later date. Our southwest supremo Drew Aspinwall worked on Cranbrook, Devon, and – surprise, surprise – it’s not as easy, or as quick, as it seems.

Both manifestos promise lots of new housing. But Labour is clear that a return to housing targets is the way to this, along with use of green belt land and targeted central government intervention (the “tough decisions”).

Labour is also more nakedly clear that it sees the current planning system as a problem: “Britain is hampered by a planning regime that means we struggle to build either the infrastructure or housing the country needs”, the manifesto states.

Also interesting is the placing of planning reform (which will deliver 1.5 million new homes) as a key tenet of the plan to “kickstart economic growth”. If economic growth is a mission, planning reform is subordinate to that. Local government is used to being the unloved part of the wider DLUHC remit. But directors of planning will be pleased with a promise of more planning officers (the need for this is a recurring conclusion of our Planning Barometer). New planning powers for combined mayors is both a blessing and a curse as targets will then fall on them instead of only local councils.

Overall, we can say that the Conservative manifesto on housing, planning and infrastructure is more “micro”, with more specific retail offers to specific sections of their (previously) core vote: farmers, traditional rural voters, domestic tourist hotspots. Labour’s decision not to mention “London” in the entire manifesto is also a signal.

On 5th July we will have a government with an aim of either 1.5 million or 1.6 million homes. Now all we need is enough skilled labour (small ‘l’) to deliver it.

A handy comparative table can be seen below.

Comparative Table