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What now? downpours,
distracted mayors and what the election means for you

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Written By:

Daniel Fryd

Published:

23rd May 2024

Downpours, distracted mayors and what the election means for you

The Deputy Mayor was clearly distracted. A lively panel debate on urban regeneration was in full swing despite the rain lashing down on the conference tent, but Jules Pipe CBE, London’s Deputy Mayor for Planning, kept checking his phone.

“I’m sorry for being rude,” he said, peering down at his phone whilst sat onstage as a panellist at UKREiiF, “but….I think..I think they’re calling a General Election!”. Cue slight disbelief, lots of murmuring, and some frantic refreshing of BBC and Politico twitter threads in the crowd.

Here we were – two hours after a respected crossbench Peer told the audience he would bet his house on an election taking place in October/November – with an election now cemented for July. So we braved the rain, which by now was torrential and forming small ponds in the deckchair area, and headed to the bar to decompress.

After the initial excitement had worn off, and the hilarity of seeing a soaked Sunak bravely making his announcement had died down – talk turned to our projects:

  • Should I stop talking to politicians about my project?
  • What now for major DCO infrastructure projects sat with the Planning Inspectorate for a decision?
  • What now for planning applications set to be considered by Councils in the next month?
  • What about public consultations in the next month?
  • What happens to legislation going through Parliament – renters reform and leasehold reform?

Well, what now?

So with the sequences being pretty wide ranging, here are some brief reflections on those questions, and some thoughts on what you can do to prepare. Luminate’s team has seen dozens of elections come and go. We’ve helped clients across the development, infrastructure and energy sectors to navigate these changes – advising organisations from SMEs to bluechip multinationals. Get in contact with myself or Ally Kennedy if you’d like to discuss the General Election and what it might mean for you.

Should I stop talking to politicians about my project

Almost certainly not. For projects that are already public it’s important to look at the opportunities to engage usefully, and not just get stuck in a mindset of ‘keeping your head down’. Politicians want to be talking to residents about growth, jobs and homes in this campaign – so helping them do that, arming them with positive information about what your project will deliver, and identifying suitable opportunities for helpful site visits – is something you need to be on the front foot about.

What now for major DCO infrastructure projects sat with the Planning Inspectorate for a decision?

The pre-election period is there to avoid things getting political. But the frank reality of this election is that both parties will be fighting for every vote. Rishi has ruled out being ‘nice’, so prepare for Ministers to use everything at their disposal to make a political point. That includes Secretaries of State taking decisions on NSIP decisions currently held up by the Planning Inspectorate. We’ve seen a slew of major PINS decisions come through in the weeks before the last three elections and that’s likely to continue.

What now for planning applications set to be considered by Councils in the next month?

During elections local councils also observe the period of ‘heightened sensitivity’. Some councils are terrified of even holding a planning committee during the pre-election period, whereas others will plough ahead with packed schedules. Ultimately, planning committees should continue but any applications which are possibly controversial should not be discussed. Councillors will be in full campaign mode, looking to impress their local MP, so you need to be careful about any application going to committee in June.

What about public consultations in the next month?

This will need some consideration and it depends on your scheme. Consultations are not automatically ruled out but councils may be wary about supporting consultations which may subsequently be criticised because of the election taking place. You’ll need to engage with helpful councillors and officers at the local authority and determine whether the consultation you have planned is still fit for purpose – both in terms of meeting statutory requirements and for your broader communications and engagement objectives.

What happens to legislation going through Parliament – renters reform and leasehold reform?

Whilst the Renters Reform Bill and Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill passed almost all of their Commons and Lords stages, it’s likely too late for them to go through the wash-up process. Both pieces of legislation were close to the final hurdle with a third reading of the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill scheduled for 5 June. That won’t happen now, and neither bill is listed in Lords business for 23 or 24 May, so the signs aren’t great. An incoming Labour government would pick legislation for leasehold and renter form – but the current legislation will have been, frankly, a waste of time and ultimately a drawn out failure to reform the sector.

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