Tim Farron: Planning reforms are an ineffective, illiberal and dangerous power-grab

There is a housing crisis in this country and it has been going on for years. Lack of housing is forcing people out of their areas where they grew up, while high rents mean young people cannot afford to save for a deposit. That’s why Liberal Democrats want to build 300,000 new homes a year, including 150,000 homes for social rent.

But decisions on local housing should be made by local authorities working with their communities. Not by Tories in Whitehall. Local authorities, working with their communities, know best where homes are needed and what infrastructure is needed to support them.

Too many ‘new build’ estates lack any infrastructure needed to support a community. GP surgeries, children’s playgrounds and green transport are too often an afterthought for developers. Or if they’re not, developers often submit planning applications removing commitments to build infrastructure, claiming it’s too expensive.

In Tory-controlled Buckinghamshire, the council are letting down local people further. They have failed to put forward a “Local Plan” which means that rather than planning applications being considered against a plan put together by local people, they are instead considered against guidelines set out by the Conservative Government in London.

This means locally elected councillors and the people they represent have much less control over developments. It means that developments will not include vital infrastructure such as GPs, schools and parks, as the council has not set out what it needs. This is a shocking dereliction of duty that the Government’s planning reforms will do nothing to solve.

The Tories’ planning reforms are a further power grab by Westminster, attempting to erode the voices of local communities. The Tories claim that these reforms are needed to increase house building, but there is no evidence this is the case.

Instead of solving problems, these reforms exclude local voices and councils from the planning process at the expense of wealthy developers, who want to ride roughshod over the view of local communities. Wealthy developers by the way, who donated a staggering £11 million to the Conservative Party last year.

Liberal Democrats believe that local communities should have a greater say on developments not a reduced one.

In South Lakeland, Liberal Democrats have set a target of building 1,000 new homes for “affordable rent” and have so far built more than half.

And in Eastleigh, our council stepped in when private developers pulled out to develop new homes on council land. These homes will be built to high sustainability standards, with 35% for affordable rent and include significant amounts of new green space.

These projects are working with local communities to deliver what they need, rather than being imposed by Whitehall.

Community is a fundamental value of the Liberal Democrats. It’s in the first sentence of our constitution. As liberals, we must fight for the rights of local communities and their right to have a real say over decisions made that affect their local area.

* Tim Farron is Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on Agriculture and MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale.

Read more by or more about , , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Matt Wardman 29th May '21 - 10:54am

    Quite a brave article 🙂 .

  • Helen Dudden 29th May '21 - 12:53pm

    A very honest article.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Suzanne Fletcher
    It isn't the theory I have a problem with, it is how it would happen. it wouldn't just be deciding to disestablish, it would be unpicking lot of complicated li...
  • John
    Gordon, yes: "Being ‘first-mover’ can create competitive advantage, but it can also bake in weaknesses that are hard to identify let alone fix." Britain...
  • John
    Labour's plans for the HoL are a foolish concoction dreamt up by Gordon Brown as centralisers idea for devolution. People around the country are already nomi...
  • John
    Judging from anecdotal views encountered and comments n the Guardian and Independent, there ought to be a fair chunk of opinion looking for a more pro European ...
  • John
    Labour have made these proposals in an attempt to throw a constitutional bone to their membership ( 80%+ ), unions, and supporters who are desperate to get real...