David Cameron’s choice of Nick Boles as the new planning minister sends a clear signal that he is serious about planning reform. The founder of Policy Exchange is a close confidante of the Prime Minister and has been trusted with reforms that have been attempted once and damaged Cameron’s reputation.
If the Chancellor is the winner from relaxed development regulations — which will be a core part of his Economic Development Bill next month — then his party stand to be the losers. The Campaign to Protect Rural England is already gearing up for a second battle:
‘If planning restrictions are relaxed, you’re not going to get any increase in the overall number of houses being built. All that will happen is an increase in the number of houses being built in the wrong places’
Helpfully, we know just where these ‘wrong places’ might be. The CPRE have released information on the top 35 places that are under threat, which we have plotted on this interactive map. Click on each pointer to see which developments are in the pipeline for MPs up and down the country:
Not surprisingly, Conservatives are going to face the greatest threat, representing the highest number of rural constituencies. But it’s not just Tory backbenchers under threat; ministers old and new including Ken Clarke, Anna Soubry, Sajid Javid and Caroline Spelman would be affected by new developments resulting from relaxed regulations. Another MP who is affected is Liberal Democrat Don Foster, who today joined the Communities and Local Government department as a parliamentary under-secretary. Senior members of other parties are also noted by the CPRE, including Caroline Flint, Hilary Benn, and Julian Huppert. No doubt they will be fighting Boles to the bitter end.
Last time the government tried to reform planning regulations, they fatally agreed to dilute the proposals after heavy lobbying from the National Trust. Combined with a fightback on the ground, the government seemingly kicked building deregulation into the long grass. Labour has attacked the flip-flopping, with Chuka Umunna challenging the government ‘for God’s sake make your mind up’.
Yesterday’s reshuffle confirms that Cameron and Osborne have made up their minds and building reforms are a key component of their new growth strategy. When the planning applications start to roll in, they can expect a fight from not just residents, newspapers and the National Trust, but also from the MPs highlighted in the map above.