Now that David Cameron has jumped on board the Treasury bandwagon in wanting to revise the National Planning Policy Framework, it’s looking like the Communities and Local Government department is going to be pitched into battle with the National Trust and other anti-development campaigners yet again. It’s not just that CLG ministers might be wary of opening up old wounds with organisations whose members tend to be Conservative voters, but that they already feel planning reform is truly done and dusted.
CLG sources point to the fact that out of the 480,000 units with outstanding planning permission, work has not yet started on 226,000, more than 81,500 are on hold and 136,700 are moving to the point where work will begin on site. They believe this is evidence that planning reform is already starting to take effect, but as is always the case with housebuilding, the effect is just taking longer to show. As James wrote in his column this week, Eric Pickles has sent in mediators to break up a stalemate between local authorities and developers where councils have insisted on unaffordable community benefit schemes. There are also fears that the slow trickle of starts is being caused by a lack of available credit, rather than continued difficulty negotiating the planning system.
I’ve also seen a 30-strong list of all the planning changes that are completed, active, due to be finalised and out for consultation to underline how much the department is already doing to change the system. But the Prime Minister clearly feels the need to show sleeves that are well and truly rolled up on this issue: Eric Pickles will need to show some mettle if he’s going to wrestle this policy back from Number 10.