2 October 2018 

Conservative Party Conference 2018- Monday update 

By Luke Major 

Yesterday, Cascade sat in on no less than eight planning and development related events. It seems that Government Ministers have been banned from making any headline-grabbing announcements, so there were no surprises from our new Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, or Housing Minister, Kit Malthouse, who were both keen attendees at these fringe talks.

In both the keynote housing speech and various conference fringe events, Mr Brokenshire reiterated that delivering more housing and facilitating greater levels of home ownership for young people remains the biggest domestic priority for the Government. The target to build 300,000 homes a year by 2020 remained intact. As expected, the Conservatives also announced the banning of combustible cladding in new builds, a crackdown on rouge landlords, letting agent fees and high deposits, as well as a ban on use of leaseholds for new builds.  

Interestingly, despite the vocal criticisms of the Government’s flagship Help-to-Buy policy, including the claims that the policy pushes up house prices whilst failing to tackle supply, Housing Minister Kit Malthouse, remained steadfastly committed to the scheme, claiming that "this is the one initiative that people actually come up to me in the street to thank me for."  

It was very clear that both the issue of home ownership and creating a better living environment for renters is being taken seriously. However, the question and answer sessions at the housing fringe talks revealed a deep anxiety that these reforms will not take effect quickly enough to prevent Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party from capitalising on the issue and taking power.

On the development side, the Housing Minister also hinted that local authorities should be looking at developers record of delivery as a consideration in the planning process. He went on to make the point that planning conditions are, more often than not, imposed because the local authority is unhappy with the way negotiations have gone with a developer and so, they are sometimes used punitively as a way of closing down debate. 

The revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework were also subject to discussion, with the point made again that it is not meant to supersede local plans, but merely to act as guidance and empower local authorities and people over how housing is delivered. 

Elsewhere, the Government remains bullish on Brexit and getting a good deal with the EU, though it seems from the private conversations I have had with some some MPs, including one or two Ministers, that Theresa May’s ‘Chequers’ deal could look very different to what it is now before all is said and done. 

More on this tomorrow.

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