20 Dec Which political party is best for Town Planners?
Brexit uncertainty and political mistrust have mired the development industry over the last year (perhaps even 2 or 3 years). So, moving towards the General Election last week we reached out to our Town Planning network on social media, not to see which party they were going to vote for, but which party they felt would be best for the Town Planning industry.
Town Planners come in all different shapes and sizes – some work in the Public Sector, some lead or work in planning consultancy and some are working directly for housebuilders and developers, so each could therefore have different desires and expectations from a new government’s policies on housing, planning, sustainability and other related issues. We outlined each party’s key points relating to planning from their respective manifestos and watched in anticipation to see what results came through.
Our Labour voting Town Planners were jumping for joy as their preferred party took a commanding lead which they held pretty much throughout. There was talk of the masterstrokes that Jeremy Corbyn had pulled throughout the election campaign and discussion about a new wave of socially aware policies which could transform the social and affordable housing sector. During the day there were runs on the Greens and then on the Tories who bridged the 15% deficit they faced at lunchtime, to reach parity with only hours to go before the final results came in. However, by the time we closed the poll at 8pm on election night the results were as follows:
- Conservative 31%
- Labour 39%
- Liberal Democrats 15%
- Green Party 11%
- Brexit Party 2%
- Others 2%
So, a landslide Labour victory from the planning world it would seem?!
Yet nationally (and…er…officially) we now have the largest majority Conservative government since the Thatcher years. A thumping majority of 80 seats will most likely allow their potentially divisive policies to be implemented unchallenged. Interestingly in both our poll and the general election itself, more people voted for Labour and the Lib Dems combined than solely for the Conservatives yet for every 1% of the vote, the Conservatives gained 8.37 seats but for every 1% of the vote held by the Lib Dems, they only gained 0.95 seats. That, of course, is whole other debate about the validity of the First Past the Post system – your thoughts on this would be of interest!
As a reminder here are the manifesto policies relating to Planning and Development.
It strikes me that the Town Planning industry needs some certainty moving forward for it to operate fairly and with conviction. Developers need confidence in how their assets will perform in future markets, planning consultancies need to know that work will continue to flood in, and Local Authorities need to be confident that their Local Plans will meet the needs of the people and that their decision-making works for the many and not the few (where have I heard that slogan before…?).
Labour certainly appeared to be the favourite within the Planning industry in our vote, but the national mood is much more ‘blue’. Does this demonstrate that Planners are removed from the everyday issues of facing the British public? Does it mean that there are internal rifts and divisions across the Planning and Development industry? When you look at the (overwhelmingly blue) map of voting constituencies – particularly in England – you have to wonder how many of the Labour supporting (39%) planners and those supporting the Lib Dems, Greens and Others (28%) are pleased to be working under Tory role for at least another 5 years.