Pennycook reiterates Labour’s approach to planning in Westminster Hall debate

Matthew Pennycook MP, Shadow Minister for Housing and Planning, spoke at a Westminster Hall debate on planning reform on Wednesday 13 March.

Simon Clarke MP, briefly the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities under Liz Truss but now a discontented backbencher, called the debate and made a robust speech, criticising the Government’s recent decisions on planning and even supporting Labour’s plans for the designation of ‘Grey Belt’ land.  Mr Pennycook spoke in response to Mr Clarke’s comments and made the following points:

  • There is a ‘need for enforceable housing targets’ in order to reach the Government’s target of 300,000 homes a year.
  • The removal of mandatory targets has led to a number of councils with advanced Local Plans ‘scrambling to reverse and take advantage of the freedom the revised NPPF provides to plan for less housing than their nominal targets imply…a Labour government will act decisively and early to ensure that it is undone.’
  • Labour would ‘be focused on a bold evolution of the planning system in England, not a complete dismantling of ita discrete number of targeted changes to the existing system, coupled with decisive action to ensure that every element of it functions optimally’ to ensure delivery of 1.5 million homes of the course of the next parliament.
  • One targeted change would be ‘an effective mechanism for cross-boundary strategic planning’ which a Labour government would introduce to ‘overcome housing delivery challenges around towns and cities with tightly drawn administrative boundaries.’

Wrapping up, Mr Pennycook said the Government had ‘not only squandered the opportunity to make the planning system work as needed but, in caving in to the demands of their backbenchers […], have actively made it worse’, referring to recent statistics that show a 55% decrease in housing applications between 2016-17 and 2023-24.

Though not revealing anything new regarding Labour planning policy, Mr Pennycook’s comments will provide reassurance that Labour does intend to set clear dividing lines with the Tories on planning at the general election.  It is understood that Labour finalised their draft manifesto last month, so it can reasonably be assumed that these measures will make it into the final document.

If you would like to read the full Hansard transcript for the Westminster Hall debate, please click here.

If you would like to view the Government’s statistics for housing applications, please click here.

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