Labour to 'toughen stance' on fracking

Reports that the Labour Party is set to call for a presumption against fracking in areas of outstanding natural beauty and national parks feature in our round-up of this morning's and the weekend's newspapers.

The Financial Times (subscription required) reports that Labour will seek to tighten regulations governing extraction of shale gas today as the party hardens its stance over the technology. According to the newspaper, hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking", will be discussed by MPs as part of legislation to reform trespass laws. The newspaper says that Labour will put forward amendments to "close key loopholes" in the environmental regulation and will call for a presumption against fracking in areas of outstanding natural beauty, national parks and sites of special scientific interest.

Writing in the Times (subscription required), Sky News business presenter Ian King says that the National Planning Policy Framework is "having a genuine and positive impact in helping to tackle the housing shortage". But King adds that cutbacks in local government have "severely constrained the ability of local authorities to deal with planning applications in a timely manner". He continues: "No wonder some [housebuilders] are calling for a central agency to deal with all planning applications. Such a move would lead to more efficient progress. Most attractively, it might also remove politics from what can be a contentious process."

The Independent reports that a coalition plan to get 100,000 people on the property ladder by helping them buy new-build properties has actually helped just over 5,000 individuals. According to the newspaper, official figures show that so far only 5,518 have benefited from the NewBuy scheme, launched by chancellor George Osborne in his Autumn Statement three years ago. The scheme involves guaranteeing mortgages for first-time buyers who have a deposit as small as five per cent.

The Times (subscription required) reports that the head of one of the country’s leading housebuilders has attacked chancellor George Osborne, "saying that the changes to stamp duty would fuel uncertainty just as the sector was returning to normal". Rob Perrins, the managing director of Berkeley Group, told the newspaper that he was particularly worried that the changes "could stifle demand for more expensive homes in the capital, whose stamp duty rates are now much higher than they were on Wednesday".

The Independent reports that UNESCO’s decision to declare Dundee a "City of Design" – the first place in the UK to achieve that status – "underlines its growing reputation as a cultural and creative powerhouse". The newspaper says that the decision has "led to designers and engineers alike looking afresh at the north bank of the Firth of Tay". It adds: "The thumbs up from UNESCO was strongly influenced by excitement over the Dundee V&A Museum of Design, the work of the eminent Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, which will open in 2016."

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