Simon Petar: There are opportunities in Labour’s housing hash
The public affairs industry should encourage developers to rethink how they engage.
Despite my long-term party membership, I have come to the conclusion that Labour’s approach to housing policy is both tragic and an opportunity in equal measure.
Tragic because the ability to get much needed large-scale developments off the ground has now been made harder. The recent announcement that the London mayor backs Jeremy Corbyn’s call for resident ballots in estate regeneration wasn’t surprising. After all, the reselection process for the London Labour mayoral candidate is underway and if there is one politician who is uber-organised (pun intentional) and takes no chances when it comes to political campaigning, it is Sadiq Khan.
Of course, Khan has every reason to be concerned. Momentums’ decapitation strategy over moderate Labour councillors shows no sign of slowing down. No moderate is safe.
In fairness to Jeremy Corbyn, both hard left and moderate Labour groups have long called for democratising planning for local residents with ballots for regeneration schemes. To be clear, greater scrutiny for developments is needed. However, whilst brilliant and right in practice, the idea that residents have the binary decision on regenerating their areas is potentially going to super charge the pitch fork and nimby brigade.
Developers are already licking their wounds over new viability tests in London with many saying all it has done has manufactured a multimillion pound game of blink with the GLA.
Brexit aside, both Conservative and Labour Party strategists believe housing is the issue which will determine the outcome of the next general election. The prime minister has pledged to dedicate her premiership to the cause, making a series of announcements via the Budget and the now infamous 2017 conference speech.
While welcome, we all know they barely scratch the surface and do nothing to encourage the major building programme we desperately need. Access to land, increasing council borrowing limits and a need to incentivise new entrants to the housing market are just three policy areas that need addressing. Increasing confidence in the entire industry post-Grenfell will also be of huge importance as we move forward.
For the public affairs industry, this is a golden opportunity to encourage developers to really think about how to engage and execute positive and meaningful local consultations. The old adage is true - they will get out what they put in.
Simon Petar is an associate director at iNHouse Communications.
Picture by: Danny Lawson/PA Archive/PA Images.