Following the Conservative win, David Cameron made specific reference to three pledges affecting planning in his acceptance speech. Unsurprisingly he mentioned ensuring sufficient homes are delivered and Brandon Lewis (who remains in post) has tweeted that he will be focusing on 'Delivering homes we need, where we need them'. There will be an emphasis on 'brownfield first' with the pledge to protect the green belt. The manifesto confirmed that brownfield land would be used "as much as possible" and local authorities would be required to have "a register of what is available" and ensure that "90 per cent of brownfield sites have planning permission for housing by 2020". Release of public sector land was promised, and support for locally led garden cities pledged. The delivery mechanism for these is not yet known and some further reforms may need to be considered including the compulsory purchase regime.
The Conservatives have consistently advocated that the planning system is vital for a strong economy and the Government will be pressing ahead with its delivery of the National Infrastructure Plan. David Cameron specifically referred to rebalancing the economy by building the Northern Powerhouse and Stockton South MP James Wharton has been appointed as minister at the DCLG with responsibility for this. Plans to give English cities, with an elected mayor, powers over housing, transport, planning and policing have been set out in George Osborne's first post-election speech. Greg Clarke has stated that other cities will be able to follow suit, and a Cities Devolution Bill is promised in the Queen's Speech.
David Cameron said that he would implement the devolution settlement promised under the last Government "as fast as I can". Scotland already operates a distinct planning system. Wales already has some devolved planning powers and further devolution is already underway. The Planning (Wales) Bill brings forward significant changes for planning in Wales and introduces a new procedure for smaller but important Welsh infrastructure projects (Developments of (Welsh) National Significance (DNS)), determined by Welsh Government Ministers directly. The Silk Commission also made a number of further recommendations related to the planning system.
Neighbourhood planning is firmly established as part of the planning system and under the previous administration the chief planner on a number of occasions stated that the Government wanted to see a significant increase of neighbourhood planning, to see more neighbourhood plans approved and giving local people more say on local planning and votes on local issues.
Energy development will be strongly promoted. The manifesto signalled, "a significant expansion in new nuclear and gas; backing good-value green energy; and pushing for more new investment in UK energy sources". However, onshore wind in England and Wales in particular will face significant challenges with the pledge to end "any new public subsidy", and to "change the law so that local people have the final say on wind farm applications". This follows an increasing level of intervention on wind farm applications by outgoing Eric Pickles in the months running up to the election. Offshore development will be affected by the Government's pledge to "put in place stronger protections for our natural landscapes, establish a new 'Blue Belt' to safeguard precious marine habitats".
Shale gas development will be a priority. David Cameron and his party are proponents of shale gas, the last administration already made changes to the planning system to enable these developments. The Conservatives also want to deliver EDF’s new nuclear plant in Somerset, the first nuclear power plant approved in the UK for 20 years. They have also talked up a possible tidal barrage in Swansea Bay.
Eric Pickles is replaced by new Communities and Local Government (CLG) Secretary Greg Clark. This also points to a continuation of the Department's promotion of both the growth agenda and localism. He was for several years Eric Pickles’ Minister for Planning and promoted the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), so more planning reforms are likely to be in the offing.
Nuneaton MP Marcus Jones has also been appointed a minister in the department for CLG. Penny Mordaunt, whose ministerial responsibilities included planning casework, town centres and enterprise zones, is moved to the Ministry of Defence. Details of the new ministerial team’s portfolios will be announced in due course.
It looks like we may expect plenty more changes to planning under the new administration in a number of areas.