The three main parties all support high-speed rail, reducing greenhouse gases and environmental protection. But what about the controversial issues?

Labour proposes fewest changes. Tram schemes, which central government had not previously helped, despite enthusiasm from Labour councils, would be supported. Councils would be given new powers to lead in the provision of affordable housing; although how this would work with widespread cuts is unclear. Unlike the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, Labour support a third Heathrow runway and the IPC.
Conservative proposals are the most controversial. Outside London they would abolish regional government (including RSSs and RPBs) entirely. National and regional building targets would go, leaving the decision to LPAs. Many fear this would result in the under provision of a range of needs including, housing, minerals, Gypsies…etc.
Whilst there would be decentralisation of most planning, the Tories would take a different approach would be taken for education. Applications for new schools would be decided, not by LPAs, but by the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, while PD rights would allow “any existing building” to change to educational use. The traffic implications of this are not addressed.
Third party appeals would be allowed; but the grounds of appeal against refusal or grant would be limited to conflict with the local plan and procedural irregularity. This assumes that it is clear whether there is a conflict.
Many will welcome the desire to decentralise, while being concerned that there must be a mechanism to prevent underprovision.
The Liberal Democrats are the most environmental. While Labour and the Conservatives propose a 34% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020 and 80% by 2050, the Liberal Democrats seek 40% and 100%. Like the Conservatives the Lib Dems would decentralise to local government, but not by abolishing the regional level. They would scrap Government Offices, but add carbon-reduction targets to RSSs. They have a raft of policies on issues that, while important to those effected, are not the most important: a proportion of NPAs to be elected; a second homes use-class; converting farm buildings into affordable homes; a local retail competition test and a designation to protect urban spaces.
The biggest concern is the lack of policies from any of the three main political parties to meet the need for new market houses, end the slump in housebuilding and fully meet other needs. That problem cannot be solved by planning alone and will depend on the economy.
by Timothy Jones
There is also a new paper in the Publications section titled ‘What The Main Parties Propose In Respect Of Planning’. You can view this resource by clicking here.