Tories policy detail sought

Details of Conservative planning policies are needed to avoid disrupting development in the event of a new government, the property sector has warned.

The British Property Federation (BPF) has called for clarity over national planning policy and how councils will work together on major projects. Its four-point plan, published today, supports proposals to empower authorities, including strong planning guidance and the ability to fund infrastructure by borrowing against future tax revenue.

The Tories are looking at a return to county structure plans (Planning, 9 October, p1) and have confirmed that councils will be expected to work together. But how these arrangements might work in practice is unclear. A party spokesman declined to confirm when its green paper will be published.

Councils' ability to manage their increased powers has also been called into question. The BPF has highlighted the need for support from central government.

"If done properly, localism could smooth the planning process and lead to faster decision-making and better engagement. The property industry is committed to working with councils, but they must be given significant support," said chief executive Liz Peace.

The Home Builders Federation shares many of the same concerns. It has described the Conservatives' plans to abolish regional planning targets as a high-risk strategy.

"There have to be ground rules and a robust transition process," stressed executive chairman Stewart Baseley. "We must ensure that every local planning authority produces a local plan that provides for the needs of its area and they must have the skills and resources to speed up planning."

British Council for Shopping Centres executive director Edward Cooke warned against making major changes without giving the private sector time to prepare. "The big issue is implementation. As government has become more centralised over the past few years so has the retail sector. It is naive to expect that retailers can reverse that instantly," he contended.

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