Rachel Reeves’s speech

Rachel Reeves. Photo: Lauren Hurley/No 10 Downing Street

Rachel Reeves made a speech yesterday – click here – it sounded pretty good but the devils (and the angels) are always in the detail not the rhetoric.  Who could argue with this sentence?

Over the weekend I made clear to Treasury officials that the manifesto commitments that we were elected on will be kept to and they will be delivered on.’.

A consequence of that might well be that things that aren’t in the manifesto will not be priorities. If so, it is rather a shame that there was, as usual, a terribly weak section on nature, farming and the countryside in the Labour manifesto  (see various critiques in Wild Justice’s helpful general election blog – click here).

Nowhere is decisive reform needed more urgently than in the case of our planning system.

Planning reform has become a byword for political timidity in the face of vested interests and a graveyard of economic ambition. Our antiquated planning system leaves too many important projects getting tied up in years and years of red tape before shovels ever get into the ground.

We promised to put planning reform at the centre of our political argument – and we did. We said we would grasp the nettle of planning reform – and we are doing so. Today I can tell you that work is underway.

Over the weekend, I met with the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister to agree the urgent action needed to fix our planning system.’

Planning reform is good and permission for onshore wind turbines is very good – but where will they go? I’m happy to see many more in my neck of the woods.  A few more in urban areas would be a good idea too. There is more than a hint of ‘remove all barriers to concrete pouring in the countryside’ in the wording of this statement. We’ll see.


2 Replies to “Rachel Reeves’s speech”

  1. I don’t suppose anyone is in favour of red tape just for the sake of it. The trouble is that it is all too easy to dismiss the requirements to evaluate what the effect of developing a piece of land will be before giving the go ahead, as ‘red tape’ when they are in fact there for a strongly justified purpose. I am happy for developers to be tied up with red tape if it stops them from obliterating sites on which rare or significant wildlife depends.
    Labour wants to prioritise building on brownfield land (so did the Tories I believe) and whilst there are undoubtedly many urban sites that could be redeveloped with little impact on wildlife, it is quite simply wrong to assume that ‘brownfield’ means ‘of no value to wildlife’. Often the exact opposite is true. Two outstanding examples of prime wildlife sites on brownfield land that were threatened by development during the Tory years in government were the proposal for housing on the Hoo Peninsular on the Medway – a site which turned out be of major importance for Nightingales, and the proposal for a theme park on the Swanscombe Peninsular on the Thames – a site which happens to be one of the finest sites for invertebrates in the country. In cases such as those, a system that waves through applications with minimal checks would be disastrous.
    I am suspicious of the assertion that it is the complexity of the planning system that is acting as the main brake on house-building but in any case we cannot get away from the fact that the sustainable development of the landscape is complicated and involves various trade-offs and compromises. If we get it wrong we live with the consequences for a very long time and so it is vital that whatever streamlining and simplification of the planning process does not simply ‘remove all barriers to pouring concrete’.

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