Liberal Democrat members support proposed changes to planning rules, just

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 550 party members responded, and we’re currently publishing the full results.

Our latest survey of party members finds a small majority backing the government’s controversial plans for the planning system in England. By a margin of 48% – 39% Liberal Democrat members in the survey supported the scheme to cut central control over planning but also introduce a presumption in favour of development if plans are sustainable and in line with local policies.

However, the brittleness of this support was illustrated by a further question, which found that on its own, members oppose the idea of a presumption in favour of development by 59% – 37%. It is adding the cut in central government powers and only giving the presumption when plans are sustainable and in accordance with local policy that turns this around.

On another issue of significant public controversy, the plans for High Speed Rail 2, party members again support what the Coalition is intending to do, this time by the large margin of 70% – 23%.

The other policy questions found answers very much in line with what you might expect from Liberal Democrat members, such as heavy support for environmental measures and opposition to cutting immigration to low levels.

LDV asked: The government are proposing changes to the planning system in England. Under the changes the amount of central government rules on planning will be vastly decreased, with local councils given more powers to decide what is allowed to be built in their areas. There will be a presumption in favour of giving permission for development if it is sustainable and in line with local policies. Do you support or oppose these changes?

Support 48%
Oppose 39%
Net: 9%

LDV asked: Do you support or oppose the following policies?

  • Greater use of renewable and clean energies even if they add costs to businesses and households: 89% support, 9% oppose – net support 80%
  • Reductions in armed forces spending: 71% support, 24% oppose – net support 47%
  • Building the High Speed Rail 2 link: 70% support, 23% oppose – net support 47%
  • Relaxing the planning laws to introduce a presumption in favour of development: 37% support, 59% oppose – net oppose 22%
  • Cutting net immigration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands: 29% support, 64% oppose – net oppose 35%
  • Replacement of the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights: 18% support, 74% oppose – net oppose 56%
  • Introducing a tax allowance for married couples: 17% support, 78% oppose – net oppose 61%
  • Cutting inheritance tax and the 50p higher-rate tax: 12% support, 85% oppose – net oppose 73%
  • Renewing the Trident nuclear deterrent: 7% support, 90% oppose – net oppose 83%

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with Some 550 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 11th and 15th September.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However,’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past accurately predicted the winners of the contest for Party President, and the result of the conference decision to approve the Coalition agreement.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at
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This entry was posted in LDV Members poll.


  • For the umpteenth time the NPPF DOES NOT INTRODUCE A PRESUMPTION IN FAVOUR OF DEVELOPMENT. That presumption has been part of the planning system since 1947. The change is to put the word SUSTAINABLE in. And the definition of sustainable is taken from the UN Local Agenda 21, so not some weird government speak that doesn’t really mean anything.

  • LondonLiberal 7th Oct '11 - 2:41pm

    @ Mark Pack – the question asked in the poll was rather misleading, and only one interpretation of what the draft NPPF is proposing. i think therefore that the marginal support is an unreliable figure.

    For example, yes the draft NPPF has the concept of ‘sustainable development’ set out nicely in its opening pages, with attention given to the social economic and environmental pillars, but the rest of the document is quite clear that in practice, more weight should be given to the economic imperatives of a planning application. The document needs to be read as a whole, and as a whole, it is clear that sustainabel development menas saying ‘yes’ to any application that brings jobs. It also raises the bar for objecting to developments to ‘significant and demonstrable harm’ – rather than a balanced view. the NPPF will also be the default policy for the 70% of local authorities without an adopted local plan (until they produce one), and given its pro-development emphasis, this means it will actually be quite anti-localist as councillors will have very little basis on which to say no to inappropriate development.

    One example in addition to those above: to refuse a development on the basis of transport/traffic impact, the effect of the impact must be ‘severe’. But very few developments in themselves create a ‘severe’ impact. More likely to be of harm is the cumulative impact of several developments over time. but the draft NPPF does not allow for this to be considered.

  • LondonLiberal 7th Oct '11 - 3:05pm

    @ Prue Bray – i think that the presumption that you refer to was only for zoned land. The NPPF would apply it to all land that isn’t Green Belt, SSSI etc (about 60% of the country). This is a massive difference. Also, as my post above states, while the concept of ‘sustanable development’ is set out in the early pages of the draft NPPF, it is tilted in the rest of the document to mean ‘economic development’. Documents like this need to read in their entirety – they certainly will be by planning barristers are are already planning which maseratis and Italian holiday houses to buy with all the appeal work that the NPPF will create for them (this has actually been reported as having been said by planning barristers at a recent conference). Don’t believe Andrew Stunnell’s dubious history lesson on the insertion of the word ‘sustainable’ – it isn’t what you think it is, and what he claims it to be.

    @ Simon – to answer your question: i think you know the meaning in a ‘common sense’ sense. it could be said to be the defintion used at the start of the draft NPPF – ‘development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generation to meet their needs’ , or words to that effect. But in the draft NPPF, it tends to mean ‘economic development’ – that’s one of the great canards about what the Coalition, sadly supported by Vince and Andrew, is proposing. They use the word ‘sustainable’ as a sort of greenwash to cover what they really mean: ‘economic’.

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