The recent Conservative party conference provided an insight into some of the ideas that may become policy should the next election result in a change of government.
With regards to planning, the key word for the Conservatives is ‘localism’. It would abolish regional assemblies, which don’t fit in with this ethos.This would also lead to the scrapping of regional spatial strategies.
The party would keep Planning Policy Statements, the London Plan and Local Development Frameworks in order to express the ‘spatial vision’ of an area and explore what sort of community local people want.
Pre-application discussions would be mandatory; the Local Planning Authority (LPAs) would be the arbiter of disputes to overcome the confrontation, delays and expense of decisions by appeal. The Conservatives would abolish the pre-determination rule for members and draw them into the pre-application process to resolve conflicts at an early stage.
The party would abandon Housing Delivery Grants and targets and would replace these with incentive schemes to encourage members to say yes to development.
The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), as provided for in the Planning Act, could be made to work but the party considers it has flaws as drafted. Therefore, it will introduce a Green Paper that will consider how to get planning gain back into local communities, rationalising CIL and S106. For the Conservatives, the key test will be a clear community benefit, with money not being hived off elsewhere, so the community gets a pay-back for development.
The Infrastructure Planning Commission, recently established to deal with major infrastructure projects, would be abolished, with powers transferred to ministers.
The Conservatives environmental policy includes a commitment to meeting climate change targets and will attempt to align policies including retro-fitting energy efficiency measures in existing housing stock. It has also proposed a system of ‘conservation credits’ whereby any cost to biodiversity, through something such as development, is compensated for by at least an equivalent investment in biodiversity elsewhere.
For an opportunity to debate the future of Conservative environmental policy, members are urged to visit Future Countryside, to which the Landscape Institute has already contributed.This account is based on a report by Kate Bailey RRTPI MLI, an independent planning and landscape consultant who attended the RTPI fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference.