Just because Labour has been taking a big dose of reality this week doesn’t mean the party is now refusing to make the most of any botch job by the Coalition. So we’ve come to the funny situation where the Opposition party famed for its centralised approach to planning which failed to build enough homes in any year is taking the high ground on housebuilding. The Telegraph reports that Shadow Communities and Local Government secretary Hilary Benn now believes ‘local communities should decide where they want new homes and developments to go and then give their consent in the form of planning permission’ and that ‘we have to make localism work’.
Labour would tear up the Coalition’s hated National Planning Policy Framework, Benn told the newspaper. This is extraordinary. The Conservative party, which championed ‘open-source planning’ when in opposition, is now being lectured on localism by Labour.
I wrote a grumpy column for the Telegraph last week about how the government managed to lose friends and alienate people with its planning reforms. Clearly Labour thinks voters are so cheesed off with the current approach that they’ll forget regional spatial strategies and all the other silly schemes that it waved about when in government. And as Robert Colvile points out, the party has created its own rather interesting contradiction over housebuilding. Either way, planning has ended up being an object lesson in how to give your opponents an easy win.