Tory 2019 election victory: Seven key planning promises made by the party

Following a decisive Conservative victory in yesterday's general election, the path is clear for the new government to pursue its manifesto pledges. We look at seven key planning promises made by the Tories during the campaign.

Boris Johnson. Image by House of Commons Library
Boris Johnson. Image by House of Commons Library

A new form of affordable housing for local people

The Conservative manifesto promised to give councils powers to use developer contributions to discount new homes for "local people" by a third "in perpetuity". "Councils could use this to prioritise key workers in their area, like police, nurses and teachers," the document said. Currently, councils have a choice over the mix of affordable homes they require through their local plans, and negotiate individual allocations on individual planning applications, taking viability considerations into account. It is unclear whether the new policy would involve central government imposing requirements for the new product.

Infrastructure provision before new homes

The Conservatives promised to provide infrastructure in new developments before any housing is occupied. The manifesto said that planning rules would be amended "so that the infrastructure – roads, schools, GP surgeries – comes before people move into new homes". Framing such a policy to take into account the complexities of funding phased development on large-scale settlements is likely to be a challenge, some observers have suggested.

Design democracy

The manifesto stated that every community will be given the power to "decide on its own design standards for new development, allowing residents a greater say onthe style and design of development in their area, with local councils encouraged to build more beautiful architecture". The suggestion reflects recommendations made by the interim report from the government's Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, which recommended that community engagement and consultation should be improved and take place earlier in the planning process at the plan-making stage. The commission's final report was due by the end of the year, but could be delayed by the election.  

Housebuilding targets

The Tory manifesto said the party would continue to "progress towards our target of 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s". It adds: "This will see us build at least a million more homes, of all tenures, over the next Parliament – in the areas that really need them." At an annual average of 200,000 homes a year over the next five years, this is a lower figure than both the number of new homes created in 2018/19 and the figure in the party's 2017 manifesto, which pledged the delivery of an average of 250,000 homes per year in 2021 and 2022.

A review of the proposed Oxford-to-Cambridge expressway project

Plans for the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway were thrown into doubt after transport secretary Grant Shapps said a Conservative government would place the project under review. Campaigning in Oxford last month, Shapps said: "The benefits of this project were always finely balanced against its costs, both financial and environmental. If re-elected we will review as a priority this scheme to ensure that it is still worth going ahead. We will not allow the scheme to proceed if there is not a strong case that it will boost jobs, prosperity and has local support."

Strong green belt protection and a focus on brownfield development

The Tory manifesto promised that a future Conservative administration would "protect and enhance the green belt", and "continue to prioritise brownfield development". It adds: "We will improve poor quality land, increase biodiversity and make our beautiful countryside more accessible for local community use." 

Reducing carbon emissions and other environmental promises

Boris Johnson has pledged to keep his government committed to his predecessor Theresa May’s promise to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050. The Conservative manifesto vowed to invest in decarbonisation schemes, flood defences, electric vehicle infrastructure, low energy homes, trees and the UK’s first "carbon capture storage cluster" by the mid 2020s. It also re-committed to the current Tory government’s introduction of a moratorium on fracking. All new streets would be expected to be lined with trees, it said, which some commentators have said could impact on the densities achievable on some schemes.

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