Hackney Labour stands against the Government’s “developers’ charter” in council motion

A Hackney Labour motion overwhelmingly passed at a Council meeting yesterday, committing Hackney Council to campaign against the Tory Government’s Planning reforms,  calling them a “developers’ charter” while the Hackney Conservatives unanimously stood with the Government and against local people.

The reforms would see:

  • the scrapping of Local Plans that are co-produced between councils and their communities;
  • the zoning of areas into ‘growth’, ‘renewal’ or ‘protection’ areas, decided by Whitehall civil servants, not Town Halls; and,
  • the automatic approval of developments and the end of resident consultation in growth and renewal areas.

Proposing the motion, Cllr Steve Race, Labour Councillor for Hoxton East & Shoreditch, said: “As local councillor for Hoxton East and Shoreditch, I saw just how much effort went into developing the Shoreditch Plan in partnership with the local community

“This new planning framework proposed by the Government is the very opposite of this approach. It will fail to deliver homes, it has no vision for decarbonisation of existing stock, and it will lead to the wrong buildings, in the wrong place, with the wrong infrastructure.”

“But it also represents centralisation at its very worst, an assault on local democracy and accountability – an attitude that Whitehall knows what’s best for residents in Hackney, in Hartlepool, and in Hale. We know differently – residents and elected representatives have a far better idea of what is best for their local communities than someone sitting in an office in SW1A.”

Seconding the motion, Cllr Katie Hanson, Labour Councillor for Victoria, said: “They want to tinker with the planning system but it isn’t that planning system that is the problem ─ it is the housing delivery system. There are one million homes in the UK that have been given planning permission but not built ─ that’s where they should be looking.

“What everyone knows is that in Hackney, what we need is more affordable, well designed and sustainable homes and the proposals will do absolutely nothing to deliver those. Instead, they want to take power away from local government and from the citizens of Hackney.”

Philip Glanville, the Labour & Co-operative Mayor of Hackney, called the proposed reforms “a developers’ charter, fixing the game for Tory party donors” and “an attack on local democracy.”

He added: “undoubtedly there is a housing crisis in this country, a crisis of supply and affordability, but what is not to blame is the planning system.

“It was telling that the Hackney Tories spoke about people who owned their own home and land, and stood up for developers. Because they are the people that will benefit from this Government’s planning reforms, not those waiting in temporary accommodation that desperately need a social home.

“Rather than giving councils the funding they need to build new social homes, rather than prioritizing the ending of section 21 while giving councils the power to licence the private rented sector, or rather than respecting Mayor Sadiq Khan mandate to introduce rent controls, they are going for the planning system.”

Cllr Guy Nicholson, Deputy Mayor of Hackney and Cabinet Member for Planning, said: “When it comes to building homes, planning is not the problem. Since 2010, 90% of planning applications have been approved by Hackney Council but 25% have not been built. That is over 2,000 approved homes that developers are sitting on.

“If this Tory government wants to really tackle the housing crisis, they need to reform the private rented sector and give councils the grant funding they need to build council homes for social rent.”

The move comes as Labour’s Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary Steve Reed MP sent the following letter to every councillor in the country asking them to unite against the proposals:

The Government has published highly controversial proposals to reform the planning system. One aspect that has raised particular concern is the proposal to remove local residents’ right to object to individual planning applications in their own neighbourhood if the area is zoned for growth or renewal.

Last week, the House of Commons called on the Government to protect residents’ right to retain a voice over planning applications, recognizing that the best way to get necessary new homes built is to support communities, councils and developers to work in partnership.

I attach a copy of the motion passed by the House of Commons with support from MPs of all political parties. I urge you to ask your council to pass the same motion so we can show widespread support for the principle of protecting residents’ right to a say over individual planning applications in their own area. Many local people have already expressed anger that this long-established democratic right is under threat.

Please let me know if you intend to ask your council to support the motion. I would also welcome other views you may have on the proposed planning reforms and your ideas for how we can best protect the voice of local people and their elected councillors over planning decisions.

Yours sincerely,

Steve Reed MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government