Local Plans

Levelling Up, Housing and Communities – in the House of Commons at on 22 April 2024.

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Photo of Luke Evans Luke Evans Conservative, Bosworth

Whether he has made an estimate of the number of planning authorities that do not have an up-to-date local plan.

Photo of Lee Rowley Lee Rowley Minister of State (Minister for Housing)

At the end of March 2024, 110 local planning authorities—a third of the total—had adopted a local plan in the past five years, while 291 had plans that were more than five years old. Of those, more than half are making progress towards updating their plans. The Government have made it clear that authorities should continue to update their plans because that is the best way to deliver development that is in the interests of local communities.

Photo of Luke Evans Luke Evans Conservative, Bosworth

My Liberal Democrat-run local council is one of those without an up-to-date local plan. In fact, it has now delayed its plan until 2026, which means that places such as Burbage have housing without full protection. That puts pressure on our GP services, our school places and even our roads. What more can the Government do to persuade Liberal Democrat-run Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council to ensure that its plan is established and updated so that my residents have the required protections?

Photo of Lee Rowley Lee Rowley Minister of State (Minister for Housing)

My hon. Friend has raised this matter in the Chamber before, and it is a great example of why it is so important that Bosworth has this Conservative Member of Parliament to highlight the challenges and failures of the Liberal Democrat council. Ultimately, the Government will not hesitate to take action against councils that are not fulfilling their obligations. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has done so over the past few months, and we will continue to do so, because we expect councils to do their job and put their plans in place. When Liberal Democrat councils fail to do that, we will call them out.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Labour/Co-operative, York Central

York has one of the worst housing crises in the country, yet we have not had a local plan to restrain developers for 68 years. Why has it taken this Tory Government more than 14 years to deliver a local plan for York?

Photo of Lee Rowley Lee Rowley Minister of State (Minister for Housing)

I am relatively clear that the Labour party has been in charge of York for a substantial proportion of the last 14 years. If the hon. Lady wants an answer to her question about why there is no local plan, she should look to her own party.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke

To help local authorities finalise their local plans, my hon. Friend and his ministerial colleagues have made significant changes to the planning rules. As a result, Wiltshire has cut its house building by 9,000, North Somerset has reduced its house building plans by 29%, and Three Rivers and others are doing likewise, to ensure that local plans better reflect their communities. Does my hon. Friend expect all local authorities to consider whether the new rules apply in their communities?

Photo of Lee Rowley Lee Rowley Minister of State (Minister for Housing)

It is vital for local councils to follow what is in the national planning policy framework. We know that where local plans are in place councils build more houses, but, most important, they build more houses in the right places, so that communities can be confident that they are being built where they are needed.

Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government)

The problem with the Government’s developer-led approach to planning is that it means that we see houses built for demand, but not for local need. In a community such as the Lake District, developers will sell anything they can build, but will it meet the need of local communities? Often it will not. Will the Minister ensure that local authorities and national parks putting together local plans are allowed to designate land specifically and exclusively for genuinely affordable housing so that they can say no to the houses we do not need and yes to the ones we do?

Photo of Lee Rowley Lee Rowley Minister of State (Minister for Housing)

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the planning system has a substantial amount of flexibility—it is one of the frustrations—to ensure that local councils do the right thing. Where they do the right thing, they should be celebrated; where they do not, we should criticise them and hope that they are thrown out. If the hon. Gentleman is arguing against developer-led planning—capitalism, as it is otherwise known—that is a very interesting place for liberalism in this country to go.