25 September 2018 

Labour Party Conference 2018 - Monday update 

By Mark Walker

Away from the high-profile debates around the selection of MPs and Labour Leaders, or even the more bizarre position Labour has taken on a possible second referendum, the hotter topic of conversation on the Conference Fringe has been housing.

The biggest event to affect our sector was the launch of the Labour Planning Commission, led by Roberta Blackman-Woods (Shadow Minister for Planning). This has been set up to undertake a root and branch review of the planning system with a particular focus on land value capture and the way the Planning Inspectorate operates. A request for evidence will go out on Thursday 25 October. We’ll keep you updated on this (watch this space) and please do let us know if you would like us to work with you on making a representation. 

Beyond that, the debate has raged as delegates pack out housing meetings. As we covered earlier this year, the Labour Housing Green Paper (link here) has been the frame for much of the conversation. The points raised were hard to disagree with. They include the need for more affordable homes, how to engage earlier and more meaningfully with communities and how Labour values can be placed at the heart of the design process. But as good as the Conference has been at highlighting the issues we face, the detail on how to solve them seems lighter in detail. 

A point from the fringes that might inform thinking in the coming months is the concern around the trend in “landmark” buildings as a way of making planning committees an offer they cannot refuse. This has often come at the cost of London having buildings that many of the capital’s communities feel are simply not for them. The same can be said for the lack of consultation and Local Plans that help to judge how and where to deliver affordable homes. More than 50% of Councils still don’t have Local Plans. 

We’ve heard from Sarah Jones MP (Shadow Minister for Housing) and John Healey MP (Shadow Secretary of State for Housing) yesterday who articulated perfectly the issues we face but only in broad brush strokes, which at this point in the election cycle would normally be fine. However, when you consider that the Party is now doubling down on the idea that there will soon be a General Election, rather than a second EU referendum re-run that the membership crave, it would be fitting to have more detail. After all, the power to implement these ideas may well be just weeks away. 

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