Impact of planning and development on changes in council control

10 May 2023

It has been suggested that opposition to high housing growth was central to the Conservatives losing control of councils in Hertfordshire, Berkshire, Kent and South Gloucestershire.

In Windsor and Maidenhead, a letter from the Conservative leader of the council to Michael Gove in March 2023 requested that the government grant the borough flexibility to deliver below its housing target.  The Labour party has however nationally set out a strong pro-housebuilding stance and appears that this pro-development message is proving to be more popular with the local electorate than otherwise.  

In East Herts however, there was a huge surge to the Green Party, who opposed the recent approval of plans for the 10,000-home expansion of Harlow in the East Herts Green Belt.

In South Gloucestershire, the Conservative Party lost control following a strong showing by both the Labour and Liberal Democrats. Labour’s messages of pro- development appeared to be more popular than the Conservative’s move away from a pro-housebuilding stance. The local Tory leader had campaigned on a platform of opposition to local housing numbers which had been threatened to be imposed under the proposed West of England Combined Authority.

In Medway, Kent, Conservative control was also lost to Labour with the Conservative leader recently admitting that the local plan to deliver up to 28,000 homes was ditched after a political census had not been reached.

It is evident that the Conservative party has a real dilemma on its hands with evidence that in some areas, pro-development appears to be the way forward, however in other instances (East Herts for example) a pro-development stance may not resonate well with the electorate.  This is a matter to which the party needs give some serious thought before the general election of 2024.  

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