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Election Watch: What the Conservative Manifesto says about Planning

Hot on the heels of the Liberal Democrats, whose manifesto launched yesterday, it is the Conservative Manifesto's turn to be put under the spotlight. 

As mentioned yesterday, I am using the same topic headings across all of the manifesto coverage (to aid comparison). Again, I am steering clear of the 100% environmental focused topics but have included some of the more planning adjacent ones*.

I am also leaving policy pledges (such as ending the right to buy, or leasehold reform) which related to wider property reform for my property colleagues to address in due course. 

The full Conservative Manifesto can be found here.


  • Delivering 1.6 million homes in England in the next Parliament
  • Providing a fast-track route through the planning system for new homes on previously developed land in the 20 largest cities. Strong design 
    codes will ensure this enables the gentle densification of urban areas. 
  • We will look at extending ‘full expensing’ to the delivery of brownfield housing. 
  • Raising density levels in inner London to those of European cities like Paris and Barcelona. We will ensure the London Plan delivers more family homes a year and plan for more homes on brownfield sites, like underused industrial land. We will regenerate major sites like Euston, Old Oak Common and Thamesmead. 
  • Unlocking new urban regeneration schemes, by creating locally-led urban development corporations in partnership with the private sector and institutional investors. We will support the delivery of 
    new quarters in Leeds, Liverpool and York alongside working with local leaders and the community to seize the opportunity of our ambitious Cambridge 2050 plan.
  • Supporting local and smaller builders by requiring councils to set land aside for them and lifting Section 106 burdens on more smaller sites.
  • Renewing the Affordable Homes Programme that will deliver homes of all tenures and focus on regenerating and improving housing estates.
  • Retaining our cast-iron commitment to protect the Green Belt from uncontrolled development, while ensuring more homes get built where it makes sense, like in inner cities. Our national planning protections 
    mean there is never any top-down requirement for councils to remove Green Belt protection and these will remain in place.
  • We will ensure councils have the powers they need to manage the uncontrolled growth of holiday lets, which can cause nuisance to local residents and a hollowing out of communities.
  • We will support those who want to build or commission their own home by making the planning process simpler, while also supporting more community housing schemes. We will encourage the building of different forms of housing, particularly housing for older people. 

Commercial Development & Infrastructure

Commercial Development

  • Create more Freeports and Business Rates Retention zones. Freeports have already generated just under £3 billion in investment, which in turn will create thousands of jobs. We will extend this opportunity to more areas and set out an application round in the next Parliament. 
     We will enable councils to retain all business rates growth within a defined zone for 25 years, which they can use to finance the delivery of new infrastructure and invest in supporting burgeoning local industries.
  • Continue backing Investment Zones across the country, giving areas £160 million to catalyse local growth and investment.
  • We will change planning laws to support places to bring back local market days and regenerate defunct shopping centres. 


  • We will speed up the average time it takes to sign off major infrastructure projects from four years to one. 
  • Introduce reforms to outdated EU red tape to better protect nature while enabling the building of new homes, new prisons and new energy schemes. Along with the reforms to the EU’s bureaucratic environmental impact assessment regime that we have already started, these changes will speed up local and national infrastructure planning systems.
  • Ensure any requirements to offset the impact of new infrastructure and homes on an area are proportionate, without compromising environmental outcomes.
  • Reduce the cost of infrastructure by allowing quicker changes to consented projects.
  • Ensure National Policy Statements are regularly updated.
  • Focus the role of statutory consultees in the planning system on improving projects in line with clearer objectives, rather than piecemeal requirements that add delays.
  • End frivolous legal challenges that frustrate infrastructure delivery by amending the law so judicial reviews that don’t have merit do not waste court time
  • Build four new prisons, completing our programme of 20,000 new prison places by 2030. We will make it easier to build prisons in appropriate places by scrapping legacy EU rules and streamlining the planning system.
  • Deliver our plan for Northern Powerhouse Rail bringing more frequent trains, more capacity and faster journeys. We have committed £12 billion on top of our HS2 savings to deliver the section of Northern Powerhouse Rail between Manchester and Liverpool. Savings from HS2 enable us to fund electrification to Hull and build a new station in Bradford. 
  • Boost rail connectivity in the Midlands, with £1.75 billion to fund the Midlands Rail Hub in full. This will improve journey times and deliver more frequent rail services at 50 stations, benefiting over seven million people. We will upgrade the line between Newark and Nottingham to halve journey times between Nottingham and Leeds.

Planning-Related Environmental Pledges 

  • Abolishing the legacy EU ‘nutrient neutrality’ rules to immediately unlock the building of 100,000 new homes with local consent, with developers required in law to pay a one-off mitigation fee so there is no net additional pollution.
  • We will ensure democratic consent for onshore wind, striking the right balance between energy security and the views of their local communities. Our updated National Planning Policy Framework seeks to ensure local areas that host onshore wind directly benefit, including potentially through energy bill discounts. 
  • We will support solar in the right places, not on our best agricultural land. We have changed planning rules to protect the best agricultural land with a presumption that this is used for food production, while also making it easier for solar to be located on brownfield sites and on rooftops. Our new planning rules also prevent multiple solar farms being clustered in one area to help protect our rural landscapes. We will retain the current moratorium on fracking
  • Treble our offshore wind capacity, to deliver low-cost, home-grown energy and support the development of vibrant industrial clusters in places like the North-East of England, Scotland and Wales. 
  • Build the first two carbon capture and storage clusters, based across North Wales and, the North West of England and Teesside and the Humber, cutting carbon and creating tens of thousands of jobs in these regions, and progress the second tranche of projects in Aberdeenshire and the Humber.
  • Deliver a new gigawatt power plant at Wylfa in North Wales and work with industry to deliver existing projects at Hinkley Point and Sizewell.
  • We will prevent new waste incinerators being built, including those with recent permit approvals, revoking those where substantial construction has not taken place.

The Planning System & Local Government

  • Making sure local authorities use the new Infrastructure Levy to deliver the GP surgeries, roads and other local infrastructure needed to support homes. We will not allow these funds to be spent on community projects that bear no relation to support for new homes. 
  • We will further speed up the use and enforcement of powers to remove illegal traveller sites, while giving councils greater planning powers to prevent unauthorised development by travellers.
  • Empower communities through devolution and new powers. By 2030, every part of England that wants one will have a devolution deal. We will offer our ‘level 4’ devolution powers to areas in England with a devolution deal and a directly elected leader, starting with the Tees Valley.  
  • Reform our planning system to deliver fast track permissions for the building of infrastructure on farms, such as glasshouses, slurry and grain stores, and small-scale reservoirs.


There is nothing like being proved wrong less than 24 hours after making a prediction. 

Having said yesterday that the need to increase resourcing for local government, and local planning authorities in particular, appeared to be a universally acknowledged truth…  it is somewhat striking to note that it has not been acknowledged in the Conservative Manifesto. At all. 

Instead, we have:

  • A doubling down on the introduction of the Infrastructure Levy - a proposal which is so unpopular that it managed to unite the County Councils Network, the HBF, the LPDF, a large number of local authorities and the Housing Federation against it. 
  • Yet more promises of planning reform - to address everything from speeding up infrastructure consenting to the building of slurry pits and regenerating shopping centres. 
  • Promises to increase housing density in urban areas (including what appears to be a re-commitment to the problematic Urban Uplift) and to protect the Green Belt; 
  • A pledge to overturn the habitat regulations to “scrap nutrient neutrality”; and 
  • Promises of more devolution; and
  • A commitment to build 1.6 million new homes.

Given that the manifesto seems to be recommitting to the current government's stated planning agenda, without any promises of greater local government resourcing, or the reintroduction of strategic planning; that pledge might be difficult to meet. 

If nothing else, it is abundantly clear that a vote for the Conservatives this election is a vote for the full implementation of the Levelling-up & Regeneration Act 2023… even the bits that most of us don't particularly like. 


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We will deliver 1.6 million homes in England in the next
Parliament by:
❱ Abolishing the legacy EU ‘nutrient neutrality’ rules to immediately unlock the building of 100,000 new homes with local consent, with developers required in law to
pay a one-off mitigation fee so there is no net additional pollution.
❱ Delivering a record number of homes each year on brownfield land in urban areas. We will do this by providing a fast- track route through the planning system for new homes on previously developed land in the 20 largest cities. Strong design codes will ensure this enables the gentle
densification of urban areas, with new family homes and mansion-blocks on tree-lined streets built in the local character. We will look at extending ‘full expensing’ to the
delivery of brownfield housing.”