James Forsyth

Why the Tories can’t back down over planning reforms

Why the Tories can’t back down over planning reforms
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, Picture credit: Getty
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A rigid and complicated planning system has long been one of the issues holding back the UK economy. The planning reforms announced by Robert Jenrick this week are designed to bring more predictability and speed to the system.

Jenrick’s document is very much a case of politics being the art of the possible. The green belt is left alone in its entirety, despite the fact that a more rational planning system would require examining whether all of the green belt is needed, and if it is all in the right place. For example, building houses around train stations in the green belt would seem a sensible move – but these reforms wouldn’t enable that.

But, overall, the shift to a zonal system would be a significant improvement on what this country currently has. As Isabel says, there will be Tory councillors and councils that don’t like how difficult these plans make it for councils to block specific developments. The government cannot, though, afford to backtrack on these reforms. They are by far the most significant supply side reforms they are proposing.

There is a political reason, as well as an economic one, for why the Tories can’t back down on this. Home ownership is one of the biggest determinants of the way people vote and unless the Tories can get more young people onto the housing ladder, they are storing up political problems for themselves.