‘People and Planning’ will set the political party’s policies for the next election


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The Labour Party is setting up a commission to review the planning system, a front bench minister has revealed.

Former planning minister Roberta Blackman-Woods told a fringe meeting at the Labour conference on Tuesday evening that the party was preparing to launch the commission, which will be called ‘People and Planning’.

She told the meeting, which was organised by the Campaign to Protect Rural England, that the commission will set Labour’s planning policies for the next election.

And she told Building that the review would be on the lines of that for housing, carried out for Labour by former BBC Trust chair Sir Michael Lyons in the run up to the last general election.

Blackman-Woods, who will lead the commission’s work despite recently switching portfolios to become shadow international development minister, added that the commission had been in the pipeline for several months but that its launch had been delayed by June’s general election.

She said there was a case for further streamlining the compulsory purchase system and tougher measures to stop developers sitting on sites.

“If they are not building and keeping land, local authorities start to panic because they are not building out as they ought to.”

“We have to seriously disrupt the housing market as it currently operates.”

Blackman-Woods said the community infrastructure levy (CIL), the flat rate charge on larger developments that was initially introduced under Labour government legislation, needed to be rethought.

“We all know it’s not working in practice. The government has changed CIL seven times between 2010 and 2017. We need to rethink the system and have transparency on viability assessments.”

And she said that she was ‘gutted’ by the government’s recently announced changes to the formula for calculating local housing needs. She said the new objectively announced need formula will exacerbate existing regional inequalities by leading to higher targets for new homes in the south and vice-versa across much of the north of England,

“It is going to move things in the opposite direction to what we need.”

At a separate conference fringe meeting, HBF external affairs director John Slaughter defended house builders’ profit margins against accusations of excessive profiteering.

He said that the margins of around 20%, generally sought by housebuilders, reflected the risks involved in new build housing.

“The City and other investors are looking for that rate of return. If you are not able to achieve that there will be less capital coming into the industry,” he added.