Chancellor, Rachel Reeves MP, sets out case for planning reform in her first speech

Chancellor Rachel Reeves sets out case for planning reform in her first speech

Chancellor Rachel Reeves made her first major speech at the Treasury on Monday 8th July, setting out plans for the economy. Reeves pointed out that ‘sustained economic growth is the only route’ to fix the UK’s economic foundations.

Reeves stated that the government’s growth mission would follow three pillars, ‘Stability, Investment, Reform’. These pillars would all hinge on planning reform which was ‘at the centre of [Labour’s] political argument’ during the general election campaign.

The Chancellor reiterated her Government is pro-business and pro-growth and happy to take on the vested interests who have held the country back for the last 14 years.

These are the significant signals to the sector made by the chancellor. The Government will:

    1. Reform the NPPF, consulting on a new growth-focused NPPF before the end of the month, including the restoration of mandatory housing targets.
    2. End the ban on onshore windfarms. They will become part of the NSIP regime to be decided nationally rather than locally.
    3. Prioritise energy projects in the planning system and build on the spatial plan for energy by expanding it to other infrastructure sectors.
    4. Create a new taskforce that will focus on stalled housing sites, starting with Worcester Parkway, Liverpool Central Docks, Northstowe and Langley Sutton Coldfield.
    5. Hire 300 planning officers. 
    6. Intervene in decisions where there are benefits for regional and national priorities.
    7. DLUHC Secretary of State Angela Rayner has already recovered appeals for two data centre applications in Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire.
    8. Write to councils, highlighting what is expected of them, including : 1) complete coverage of Local Plans and 2) reviews of Green Belt boundaries which will prioritise brownfield and ‘Grey Belt’ and follow Labour’s Golden Rules.
    9. Ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Louise Haigh MP, and the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Ed Miliband MP, to prioritise decisions on stalled infrastructure projects.
    10. Create a Growth Mission Board focused on reviving the UK’s economic growth and prosperity and a Growth Delivery Unit based in the Treasury.
    11. Have any investment opportunities with planning considerations brought to the attention of the Secretary of State, Angela Rayner, and the Chancellor.

Reeves repeated the campaign slogan saying Labour was ‘elected on a mandate to get Britain building again’ and she was a ‘pro-growth Chancellor’.

After her speech, Reeves was asked if this was a ‘declaration of war on NIMBYs?’ to which she answered that it was up to local authorities where housing would be built but they ‘have to be built’.

For the Chancellor to be making these announcements rather than Angela Rayner, the DLUHC Secretary of State, highlights the importance the Government are placing on planning reform, infrastructure investment and housing and shows how central it will be to their economic growth mission.

The challenge will be how these aspirations for reform feed down through the system. Reeves and Rayner are aware of this and will be ready for the likely confrontations and resistance. Reeves acknowledged opposition would have to be faced down if this critical national mission for the country and Labour is to succeed where the Conservatives failed.

With a parliamentary majority of 172 the Government can win these arguments in Parliament, and no doubt the Chancellor’s signals in this speech will form in due course a Ministerial Statement and become a Material Consideration for officers and members to consider at committee, making it harder for local councillors to thwart the will of the Government, and easier for the Government to wield a big stick at Appeal.

We await further announcements on the New Town Taskforce which Matthew Pennycook said would be appointed in the first weeks of a Labour Government and further thoughts on a mechanism for strategic planning.

To watch the Chancellor’s speech, click here.

To read the Chancellor’s speech, click here.

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