The Liberal Democrats have launched a new policy paper called ‘Tackling the Housing Crisis’ at their party conference which began on Saturday in Bournemouth.
In an article for The House magazine, Baroness Thornhill, the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Housing, emphasised her parties approach to housebuilding would ‘find a positive way forward in the face of a dysfunctional national debate’. She also revealed a number of proposed modifications her party would make to the planning and development system:
- Replacing the current 5-year housing targets in favour of well-evidenced 15-year targets.
- Regarding the green belt, the Liberal Democrats would provide councils with ‘flexibility’ to ‘protect local beauty spots and at the same time allow building on unused fields or land with little amenity value’.
- Encouraging the uptake and strengthening of neighbourhood plans, pushing for more engagement with local communities alongside sustainable ways of expanding existing towns.
- Bringing more residential communities to town and city centres.
- Giving councils powers to limit second homes and holiday lets.
- Scrapping national housing targets given the failure of successive governments to meet them.
- Empowering local communities to build the right homes in the right places.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey has previously said that ‘planning for housing should be community-led, not developer-led’ and that some local councils face ‘eye-watering’ local housing targets from central government.
While unlikely they will come close to power in the upcoming general election, Liberal Democrat perspectives on housing and planning matters could gain traction in shaping the views of the larger political parties. Understanding the Liberal Democrats’ attitudes to housebuilding and the planning system also proves valuable due to their increasing presence in local government where they have gained councillors over recent years, mainly from the Tories.
It remains to be seen whether the Liberal Democrats can carve out a distinct space between the two major parties when it comes to housing and planning, their ‘all things to all people approach’ caught up with them during the Coalition Government and led them to the Westminster wilderness. Liberal Democrat conference takes place this week in Bournemouth, for anyone seeking a day on the south coast here is your opportunity!