Prime time planning: On the hunt for development?

As temperatures continue to soar across Europe, things are really hotting up in the Tory Leadership race. Competition to be the next Prime Minister is fierce and promises are being ramped up to in an attempt to engage members and rally support.

What does this mean for planning and the development industry?

There are opposing views on HS2 for a start. Boris said he has "anxieties about the business case" and that he will conduct a review if he gets into No.10. Jeremy Hunt, on the other hand, has said that HS2 is "absolutely vital", making his position very clear. Also a fan of the proposed Heathrow expansion, Mr Hunt referred to the Government's decision to support the new runway as "a momentous step for our country". It appears as though Boris is coming around to the idea too now. Previously very much against it, Mr Johnson has reportedly said recently that he would not oppose it if it has parliamentary approval.

We probably know more about Boris' development persuasions due to his role as the previous Mayor of London. In that role he was generally seen as a friend of the development industry, but has also been a passionate defender of protecting the greenbelt. He tends to like headline-grabbing projects such as the Thames Garden Bridge, Thames Estuary airport and post-Brexit English Channel bridge - but are any of these deliverable?

Agree to disagree

One thing that they appear to agree on is the urgent need for more homes. As one of his five "youth pledges" Mr Hunt has promised to deliver 1.5 million new homes for renters over the next 10 years. Focusing on home ownership, Mr Johnson has been quick to endorse new housing policy ideas published by the think tank Policy Exchange, which suggest 15 new towns on the edge of London; more help for first time buyers; and defining good design in national planning policy so that people can understand what this means.

Chequers this out

The need to drastically improve design and build quality was also highlighted by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee report on Planning and the Broken Housing Market, published this week. It's rather damning. Many of the conclusions criticise the Government's approach to solving the housing crisis and the provision of affordable housing. The new PM is going to have to get to grips with this urgently if he is to stand any hope of winning the next general election.

The report sets out a number of recommendations, calling for more detail on how 300,000 new homes a year will be built. It asks for the type, tenure and amount of new affordable homes to be reported and says far more needs to be done to improve the planning appeal system, beyond the recent announcements from the Rosewell Review. Controversially, the report claims that the developer contribution regime "too often favours developers at the expense of local communities". It criticises the lack of transparency in Section 106 negotiations and the complexity of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) regime, which it blames for the lack of local authority adoption of CIL. It acknowledges, however, the Government's appetite for reform in these areas, and suggests continuous monitoring once the legislative changes have come in. Also under fire again is the state of the local plan system, with less than 50% of local authorities having an up to date plan in place. The report says this just isn't good enough and more action is needed by Government to not only support, but also to punish councils that fail to produce or update their local

plans. The report asks for a range of "carrot and stick" measures to be pledged to shake this up and bring about change in this under-performing area. Will Boris or Jeremy be prepared to be hard-hitting on this, we wonder?

Down(ing) but not out

Whoever wins the keys to No.10 on 23 July, will certainly have his work cut out. To have any chance of staying there post general election, he is going to have to convince voters that the homes and infrastructure the country needs are forthcoming. With cross party attacks; media scrutiny and disparaging reports from within Parliament, he will have no option but to engage with the planning system and be very clear on what will be done to drive change. As the previous Mayor of London, Boris has some experience of this, although Jeremy Hunt's work as Health Secretary shows that he is not shy about making difficult and controversial decisions either. We're sure that both will be keen to make their mark in their own way, and so some fairly punchy planning announcements may be on the cards before the next election. One example could be mandatory space standards, which

outgoing PM Theresa May has been talking about this week, saying she is leaving any decision "up to [her] successor in Downing Street". So, whatever the outcome next month, we're expecting some significant changes ahead.

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