Member of Parliament for the Yorkshire seat of Castleford Ms Cooper is the only leadership candidate with direct experience of the planning and development sector, having served as Housing Minister under Gordon Brown from June 2007 to January 2008.
In a Guardian article penned shortly after her appointment Ms Cooper struck a combative tone, promising to ‘‘fight selfish nimbyism’’ on the grounds that:
‘‘Too often the local planning system responds to the vocal cries of those campaigning against new homes, and fails to hear the quieter pleas from first-time buyers, overcrowded families, or those on the council waiting list.’’
Her promotion to Chief Secretary of the Treasury in January 2008 meant Ms Cooper had little time to put her ideas into action, with the global recession subsequently transforming the housing landscape.
Seven years on Ms Cooper has returned to the theme of housing as part of her leadership campaign.
In a June speech she joined her rival Andy Burnham in proposing an ambitious housing target, but unlike Mr Burnham she has suggested a specific figure; 300,000 new homes a year:
Beyond this the speech stayed away from policy details, with Ms Cooper simply outlining the need for a bolder approach:
“For too long governments have ducked the issue of housebuilding. And right now, it’s worse than ever. This housing crisis will only grow and grow if we don’t act. At this rate it will be worse in ten years’ time than it is today. It is one of the most serious challenges for Britain’s future and we can’t keep putting our heads in the sand.’’
If elected it will be interesting to see Ms Cooper put flesh on these policy bones, and the extent to which her approach will reflect the top-down strategic planning favoured when she was at DCLG under Gordon Brown.