Labour pledges neighbourhood planning push

Neighbourhood planning would be at the forefront of a new plan-making process under a future Labour government, the shadow planning minister has said.

Shadow planning minister Roberta Blackman-Woods

Roberta Blackman-Woods was writing in a booklet published by think-tank the Smith Institute, Labour and localism: perspectives on a new English deal, which outlines the views of senior national and local Labour politicians on devolving powers from Whitehall to English town halls and communities.

In it, she fleshes out future Labour policies on neighbourhood planning, having told Planning magazine last year that the party was looking at making it universal and compulsory.

Blackman-Woods writes: "We want to extend and streamline neighbourhood planning, improve community engagement, make proper use of land and its value and bring together thinking on town, country and regenerative planning.

"Neighbourhood planning must be incorporated into the plan making process at an earlier stage. Currently this community engagement is seen as a separate process. The result has been local and neighbourhood plans at odds with one another and communities left disheartened when their input is disregarded in favour of the legally superior local plan.

"Developing a neighbourhood plan led system will, of course, not be easy. It will require new means of encouraging community buy in, supporting community groups and re- establishing the governance structures that link communities, local government and central government."

The MP calls for Labour to embrace localism and advocates "community-led planning" to restore people’s faith in the planning system and overcome opposition to development.

She writes: "The best way of ensuring that communities benefit from development is to ask them what they need.

"Local people should have a say in the kind of housing that is needed, where development is best placed and the infrastructure required to make their lives easier and their area more productive."

Elswhere in the report, Labour MPs and councillors call for English cities and regions to enjoy greater freedoms like the devolved nations of the UK.

Shadow secretary of state, Hilary Benn MP said: "While the last Labour Government devolved to Wales and Scotland, England remained largely unreformed.

"This is unfinished business, and while there isn’t public appetite for another tier of elected politicians, there is a justified sense that too much power is hoarded in Whitehall.

"That’s why we need a fundamental shift from the centre to the local – communities, towns, cities and counties – which gives more power to people and to the elected politicians we already have. It’s what I call the new English deal."

Labour and localism: perspectives on a new English deal, can be be found here.