Following the Conservatives’ election success, Prime Minister David Cameron has made significant appointments to his Cabinet. Given the Tories’ slim majority, he will now look to keep his back benchers in line to enable the implementation of his manifesto promises for the further reform of the planning system.
The important appointments relating to planning and development are as follows:
- There is a new Communities and Local Government Secretary in Greg Clark. Clark is promoted to the Cabinet from his ministerial post in charge of universities, science and cities, but previously worked within the CLG as planning minister, and is remembered for his contribution to the Localism Act and pushing though the NPPF, among other things. He replaces Eric Pickles, who becomes Minister for Faith.
- Ministerial responsibility for planning and housing is retained by Brandon Lewis. Other CLG ministerial appointees include Mark Francois, Marcus Jones and James Wharton, the latter taking responsibility for the Chancellor’s “northern powerhouse” project designed to boost the economy of northern England.
Meanwhile, in other appointments:
- In the Energy and Climate Change Department, Amber Rudd replaces Ed Davey as Secretary of State.
- Liz Truss remains in the post she held during the last year of the coalition government, in charge of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
- Patrick McLoughlin remains in post as Transport Secretary, a post he has held since 2012.
The Conservatives’ manifesto promises further reforms to the planning system and measures to stimulate economic growth. Key promises are set out below:
- When it comes to planning decisions, local people will be put “in charge”, and they will be given the final say on wind farm applications.
- 200,000 starter homes will be built exclusively for first time buyers under the age of 40 and sold at a 20% discount, and 275,000 affordable homes will be delivered by 2020.
- A new Right to Build will be taken forward, requiring councils to allocate the land to local people to build or commission their own home, with the objective being to double the number of custom-built and self-built homes by 2020.
- Locally-led garden cities and towns will be supported in places where communities want them, such as Ebbsfleet and Bicester.
- When new homes are granted planning permission, local communities will know up-front that necessary infrastructure such as schools and roads will be provided.
- Brownfield land will be used as much as possible for new development. Local authorities will be required to maintain a register of available brownfield land, and ensure that 90% of suitable brownfield sites will have planning permission for housing by 2020. A new London Land Commission will also be created to identify and release all surplus brownfield land owned by the public sector.
- The Green Belt will be protected and stronger protections will be put in place for natural landscapes.
- There will be significant expansion in nuclear power and gas to secure clean and affordable energy supplies.
- The safe development of shale gas will continue to be supported, whilst ensuring that local communities share the proceeds through generous community benefit packages.
- A Sovereign Wealth Fund for the North of England will be created so that the shale gas resources of the North are used to invest in the future of the North.
The above manifesto promises are ambitious and wide-ranging, and whilst the Tories have a majority in the House of Commons, they do not have a working majority in the House of Lords. Therefore, even if the Tories were able to push their plans through the Commons, the manifesto policies may be blocked in the Lords if the Liberal Democrats and Labour were to align themselves against them. It will be interesting to see how this pans out over the next 5 years.