Senior ministers insist they will not budge on planning reform, and that they are a key part of their economic policy. But there are clear signs of unease across the government with some ministers admitting that they could pay a political price* with rural voters for their unashamedly pro-development agenda. (David Cameron told PMQs today that he would make no apologies for wanting more affordable homes).
I’ve been forwarded a recent email from a senior figure at the DCLG (communities department) urging outside groups to come out in public and back its changes to the planning system. The email (replete with spelling errors) doesn’t quite smack of desperation – but demonstrates the jitters within the department. It was sent from a personal email account.
On Tue, Aug 30, 2011 at 11:10 AM, ???@personal.com> wrote: Hi Guys. I’m writing to let you know about an important Government planning document you should be aware of. It is known as the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). You may have seen or heard recent articles about this – in particular National Trusts’ reaction to the NPPF. For backgroud, the NPPF sets out the context and policies that will influence development decisions by local planning authorities, including on housing development. I recommend that you build on the back of today’s NHF story, and make clear your support for the NPPF. Critically the document is pro-housing supply and pro-growth – essential if we are to see the increase of housing supply to help solve our housing problems. (The document is fairly short and available at Dept Communities and Local Govt website – on consultation till mid October). I recommend you put out a press notice that;- Supports Govt ambitions – including Ministers committment to encourage growth and housing supply (Greg Clarke / Grant Shapps);- Refute National Trusts weak arguements of contreting over the countryside – (building all the homes needed to house us would only develop a small proportion of the UK – about 3-5% of the land area. If you need any help or stats on this kind of thing call the Town and Country Planning Association who are helpful). National Trust are being unreasonable and looking to preserve the country like a museum. We need to put people’s needs for affordable homes first. And the NPPF still ensures protection of vast majority of the countryside anyway.- Support policies in NPPF. Say Govt must be bold to create jobs and homes.- Roll out your stats about first time buyers, people in housing need in uk, etc. Hope this is something that helps. Get back to me if you have any Q’s. ????
* Tory MPs acknowledge that this could be a vote-loser in picturesque rural parts. Perhaps. But would these votes transfer to Labour, with its history of top-down housing targets? Unlikely.
Instead, could it be renegade Liberal Democrat backbenchers who try to take advantage? Interesting to note that this year’s media reception at the Lib Dems annual conference is being sponsored by……the National Trust.