Soap Box - Dominic Church, MD, Westminster Advisers
George Osborne is thought to have lost patience with the localism agenda and obstacles it creates for housing and infrastructure projects.
Dominic Church, MD, Westminster Advisors
Last week's Cabinet reshuffle marks a redoubling of government efforts to get the economy going and has made major planning reform more likely than ever.
This is reigniting intra-Tory tensions over how much of our countryside it is acceptable to develop in the pursuit of jobs and GDP, and represents a comms headache for Number 10.
The Department for Communities and Local Government has long been thought by the Treasury to be too pro-localist (ie. sympathetic to Nimbys) and therefore anti-growth by default.
The reshuffle puts new ministers who are key allies of the Chancellor and Prime Minister into the department. They will push for planning change.
The new civil servant heading planning policy in the DCLG was also a Treasury man, having previously been director of growth. This will speed up work to relax planning.
Conservative-supporting media and a number of powerful campaign groups are going to be pitted against the Tory leadership. The Daily Telegraph has once more stoked up its 'Hands Off Our Land' campaign of last year. Together with the National Trust and Campaign for Protection of Rural England, the campaign successfully watered down the Government's attempts to relax planning.
Planning reform will also multiply the number of Conservative MPs in rural and semi-rural areas who will have to speak out against local development or risk ire from constituents. The number of MPs affected by smaller projects that planning changes will allow will go beyond the 40 or so MPs impacted by the larger beasts of HS2 and Heathrow expansion. The overriding concern for David Cameron is to present a united Conservative party to the electorate in 2015. Planning reform will make this comms objective that much harder.
This article was first published on prweek.com
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