Our poll shows over half of MPs oppose the government’s planning changes

22nd November 2020

CPRE has undertaken new research with Conservative MPs and the results are clear: changes to the proposed algorithm are promising, but would still leave the government at odds with its own MPs on its plans to dismantle the planning system.

We’ve worked with researchers at the Savanta ComRes agency to speak to 40 backbench Conservative MPs from all over the country. We wanted to get their take on the government proposals, which were laid out in a white paper in August 2020.

And while the government has indicated, pleasingly, that it’s in the process of rethinking the housing algorithm element of the planning proposals, today’s research shows that Conservative MPs have concerns with other key elements of the government’s changes to planning.

Their plans would, CPRE argues, limit the amount that local people can shape and contribute to decisions about new development in their area. We’re arguing that the right to local democracy must be protected.

And we’re not alone in this; a huge 88% of the Conservative MPs that we surveyed told us that they believe that local people should have a say over specific planning applications in their community – the very rights that are at risk in the current white paper proposals.

The government misses the mark

Similarly, here at CPRE we’ve long been calling for better housing design and good quality, well-designed homes. Our 2019 housing design research showed that these are all too lacking at the moment.

The 40 MPs we consulted are in agreement – and they’re worried that as the government plans stand now, we risk not getting this. Over three-quarters of them told us that they think that large housebuilders won’t provide good quality, well-designed development unless they’re rigorously scrutinised.

This doesn’t make for reassuring reading when we know that the proposals would actually hand more power to developers, giving them even greater freedom than now in what and where they build.

'78% of the MPs told us that they don’t think that large housebuilders are always fair and transparent with local people.'

Indeed, it seems that these MPs, who represent 17% of all MPs for the country, have little faith in the major developers to give us all the best outcomes on the housing we so badly need. 78% of the MPs told us that they don’t think that large housebuilders are always fair and transparent with local people.

Little wonder, then, that these MPs are considering opposing what the government suggests, which stands to give locals a terrible deal on new building near them.

Keen on green and clean

The lockdown due to coronavirus has made so many of us value the places near us that we can go for a breath of air or a spot of peace. But both CPRE and these MPs are warning that if the government plans go ahead, these trusty local green spaces could be under threat from new building. 63% of the MPs told is that they believe that the changes would result in increased pressure to use those green spaces to build new housing.

'63% of the MPs told is that they believe that the changes would result in increased pressure to use those green spaces to build new housing.'

And, as we hit a year until the all-important COP 26 climate change conference, it’s good to see MPs sharing CPRE’s emphasis on making sure new homes are climate-friendly. Almost half of those we spoke to, 48%, told us that they believe the government should set a more ambitious target for new homes to be zero carbon.

As our chief executive Crispin Truman puts it:

‘In the face of a national lockdown, protecting and enhancing green space close to where people live has never been more important.

‘From Cornwall to Carlisle, MP’s, local councillors, communities and local CPRE groups are raising the alarm and the message is clear – dismantling the planning system will not deliver thriving countryside communities, more homes people can afford to live in and greater access to green space.’

Faltering plans

The proposals have already faced fierce opposition from local councillors, local communities, MPs, former Cabinet Ministers and even the former Prime Minister Theresa May MP. Our research shows that there’s even more resistance to these plans on the back benches. As Crispin says, ‘It’s clear the government needs to get back in touch with its own MPs.’

At CPRE, we’re not prepared to step back from campaigning against these plans until we’re sure that a better proposal is in place. We focus on positive change for the countryside, and so we’re talking to MPs and proposing better ways that essential new homes can be built.

Crispin says:

‘It’s not too late to make sure that people, nature and the countryside are at the heart of the planning system, and it’s encouraging to see ministers are in listening mode.

‘To avoid pitting local communities and MPs against the government, we’re urging ministers to secure the voice of local people in their planning proposals, protect and enhance local green space and ensure that the duty for developers to build social homes remains the same.

‘In the face of grave challenges, we’re calling on ministers to step up, learn the lessons of lockdown and deliver the homes and places that support healthy, vibrant communities.’

Be a part of the plans for better

We at CPRE, the countryside charity, are campaigning for a democratic, locally-led planning system that will deliver genuinely affordable homes, tackle the climate and nature emergencies and provide more access to green space for everyone.

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The Houses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge
Eva Dang / Unsplash