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General Election 2017: Conservatives to change planning law for shale applications

Words: Laura Edgar
Leader of the Conservatives Theresa May / Shutterstock_624878165

The Conservative Party has pledged to deliver an additional 500,000 homes by 2022, on top of the current target to deliver one million by 2020, as well as to change planning law for shale applications and digitise the planning process.

Prime Minister Theresa May launched the Conservative manifesto today (18 May), saying: "We must take this opportunity to build a great meritocracy in Britain. It means making Britain a country that works, not for the privileged few, but for everyone."

On planning


The Conservative manifesto states that the party would use digital technology to “to release massive value from our land that currently is simply not realised, introducing greater specialisation in the property development industry and far greater transparency for buyers”.

To do this, the party plans to combine the relevant areas of HM Land Registry, Ordnance Survey, the Valuation Office Agency, the Hydrographic Office and Geological Survey to create a “comprehensive geospatial data body” with would sit within government. The body would set the standards to digitise the planning process and create a digital map of Britain.

The Conservatives also want to reform Compulsory Purchase Order so that the process is easier and less expensive for councils to use and to determine the “true” market value of sites.

On housing


The manifesto says the Conservatives will meet their commitment to deliver a million homes by the end of 2020 and then deliver half a million more by the end of 2022.

Measures laid out in the housing white paper including to free up more land for new homes in the right places; speed up build-out by encouraging modern construction methods, and give councils powers to intervene where developers do not act on their planning permission will be delivered.

The manifesto notes that the party would support high-density housing, like mansion blocks, mews houses and terrace blocks. Existing protections on the green belt, national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty will be maintained.

Development would be spread out across the country and not just in the South-East, according to the manifesto, with the party building 160,000 houses on its own land should it win the general election on 8 June.

The Conservatives would support multigenerational homes and housing for older people, including by helping housing associations increase their specialist housing stock.

The manifesto says councils have been among the worst offenders in not building sustainable communities, so the Conservatives would help the councils that build high-quality, sustainable and integrated communities to do so. The party would work with them to improve capacity and provide them with “significant low-cost capital funding”.

Additionally, they will build new fixed-term social houses to be sold privately after 10 to 15 years, with an automatic Right to Buy for tenants. The proceeds would go towards new homes.

The party plans to work with private and public sector house builders to capture the increase in land value created when they build. This would be reinvested in local infrastructure, essential services and more housing.

On infrastructure


Citing the modern industrial strategy, the manifesto promises to ensure that industry and businesses have access to reliable, cheap and clean power and the infrastructure businesses need would be delivered, including road, rail, airports and broadband.

A £23 million National Productivity Investment Fund would be targeted at areas that are “critical” for productivity – housing, research and development, and skills. This includes a £740 million of digital infrastructure investment and £1.1 billion to improve local transport.

Investment in infrastructure projects in Scotland would continue under a Conservative government, building on the city and growth deals already signed. It plans to bring forward a Borderlands Growth Deal for southern Scotland.

The railway infrastructure across Wales would be modernised, including new and improved stations, while ways to harness Welsh natural resources for generating power would be explored.

A North Wales Growth Deal would be brought forward, connected North Wales with the north of England.

On energy


Citing America as an example of success, a Conservative government would develop the shale gas industry in Britain. This can only be if public confidence in the process is maintained and rigorous environmental protections are upheld.

The party plans to legislate to change planning law for shale applications.

Non-fracking drilling would be treated as permitted development. Expert planning functions would be established to support local councils and if necessary, “major shale planning decisions will be made the responsibility of the National Planning Regime”.

A Conservative government would set up a new shale environment regulator to assume the relevant functions of the Health and Safety Executive, the Environment Agency and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. This would aim to provide governance and accountability.

On the environment


The party pledges to leave the environment in a better state “than they inherited it”. To do this, a 25-year environment plan would be produced to chart how they will improve the environment as the UK leaves the European Union.


The Conservative manifesto can be found here (pdf).

General Election 2017 manifestos


Liberal Democrats

Plaid Cymru

Green Party

Scottish National Party

Image credit | Shutterstock