What Planning Changes the Major Parties Are Campaigning On: Housing, Environment & Infrastructure


Although personalities, the climate crisis and Brexit may dominate the news cycle, it is well worth considering the impact the major parties’ proposals, policies and promises will have on planning. Housing, the environmental and infrastructure are key campaign issues, this blog details the core pledges in their manifestos that planners should keep an eye on.


The Conservative manifesto states: Infrastructure first. Unlike the other parties who have a more environmentally focused take on development, the Conservatives want to give more power to communities.

  • The Conservatives commit to the lowest number of housing development, reaching 300,000 a year by the mid2020s. They plan on enabling councils to use developers’ contributions via the planning process to discount homes in perpetuity by a third. The plan is that these will be for local people who cannot otherwise afford to buy in their area, allowing councils to prioritise key workers and skills shortages in their region.
  • Introduce a £10bn single housing infrastructure fund, amending planning rules so that infrastructure (listed as roads, schools, GP surgeries etc.) are in place before people move into new homes.
  • Build high quality homes, safely: allowing residents to have more say in the development of their area, and supporting high rise residents with the removal of unsafe cladding.
  • Pledge to support community housing by helping people who want to build their own homes find plots of land and access the Help to Buy scheme. They will also support communities on council estates who want to buy the land and homes they live in.
  • Expect all new streets to be built to be lined with trees, while supporting the creation of new homes that have low energy bills.
  • Encourage innovative design and tech to make housing more affordable and accessible for an ageing population.
  • Protect the Green Belt. The conservatives propose to, ‘improve poor quality land, increase biodiversity and make our beautiful countryside more accessible for local community use’. They will do this by continuing to prioritise brownfield development, particularly in relation to the regeneration of cities and towns.
  • Tackle unauthorised traveller camps, giving councils greater powers within the planning system.

The full Conservative manifesto can be found HERE.


The key planning change see Labour wanting to rebalance power of the planning system by giving local government greater freedom to set planning fees, while ensuring climate change is factored into every planning decision.

  • Deliver new social housebuilding programme so that more than one million new homes are built over a decade. They are targeting themselves to building 150,000 a year by the end of parliament, with two thirds of these built by councils for social rent. The intention is to also change definition of ‘affordable homes’ to ensure they’re more affordable than the market rate.
  • A higher standard of home to be built, ending permitted development for the conversion of office blocks into homes.
  • Ending right to buy and conversation of social rented houses to affordable rent. They will also give councils powers and funding to buy back home from private landlords.
  • Review planning guidance for developments in flood risk areas.
  • Increase funding for cycling and walking, ‘bringing together transport and landuse planning to create towns and cities in which walking and cycling are the best choice: safe, accessible, healthy, efficient, economical and pollution free’.
  • Introduce a long term investment plan delivering Crossrail for the North, completing the full HS2 route to Scotland, and completing the rail electrification programme nationwide.

The full Labour manifesto can be found HERE.

Liberal Democrats

Climate change is at the heart of the Lib Dem proposals in changing planning, as well committing to building the largest number of new houses. Planning reforms focus on bringing together useful infrastructure to the developments being built.

  • Build at least 100,000 homes for social rent each year, and ensure total housebuilding increases to 300,000 per year. This will be achieved by investment from their proposed £130bn capital infrastructure budget.
  • Build all new houses to zerocarbon standards.
  • Devolve full control of right to buy to local councils.
  • Scrapping the rule allowing developers to convert offices and shops into residential properties with planning permission.
  • Interestingly, they are the only party to mention the link between planning and culture, wishing to ‘Examine the available funding and planning rules for live music venues and the grassroots music sector, protecting venues from further closures’.
  • The Lib Dems support the construction of HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail, EastWest Rail and Crossrail 2 – with proposed tighter financial controls and increased accountability.
  • Amend planning rules to promote sustainable transport and lands use.
  • Reform planning to ensure developers are required to provide essential local infrastructure from affordable homes to schools, surgeries and roads alongside new homes. Invest into public transport, improving reliability and affordability, with reforms to planning system also designed to promote cycling and walking. This will be coupled with the Introduction of a nationwide strategy to promote walking and cycling, including the creation of dedicated safe cycling lanes, increasing spending per head fivefold to reach 10 per cent of the transport budget
  • Give new powers to local authorities and communities to improve transport in their areas, including the ability to introduce networkwide ticketing, like in London.

The full Liberal Democrat manifesto can be found HERE.

What does the RTPI say?

Importantly, The RTPI is party politically neutral, and will work with whomever wins the election, seeking to use its influence on the behalf of its members in the most effective way. They have their own manifesto to highlight the crucial role planning has to play in the development the UK needs, and this worthwhile read can be found HERE.


The goal of this blog was, like the RTPI, to remain as politically neutral as possible. I recommend everyone interested to take a look at all the manifestos but hopefully this provided an overview on what is being proposed. The planners I’ve spoken to about the election have all highlighted the key issues mentioned at the start as the key factors in their decision making process, especially Brexit and Climate Change. However, there are some interesting other policies being put forward and whoever wins, it looks like there will be some reforms to the UK planning system.


Written by Freddie Bell 

Head of Planning & Design 


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