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General Election 2017: Who saw that coming?

Pauline Roberts 21 Apr 2017
What a surprise Tuesday’s announcement of a snap general election on the 8th June was – it’s a matter of weeks away! After all, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, has always been steadfast in saying that she would not call for an election before 2020. Plus, it was only last month that she told Nicola Sturgeon, in no uncertain terms, that “now is not the time” for a second Scottish independence referendum and that all “energies must be focused on our negotiations with the European Union”. Those energies are firstly being focussed on obtaining a bigger majority in the Commons, the emerging mantra being the need for a ‘strong and stable’ Government to take the negotiations forward.
Earlier this week the Government secured a majority with 522 votes out of 650 in support of her motion for a General Election on the 8th June 2017. The snap nature of forthcoming election means it will be fought around Brexit issues with little time for much meaningful discussion on other policy matters. It should also mean that any uncertainty from the elections process is kept to a minimum with the odds high on the current Government strengthening its current position.
So what might this mean for those involved in planning? From a policy perspective the Government has set out its intentions and consultation proposals in the recent Housing White Paper and its Industrial Strategy Green Paper and if re-elected they will carry forward these emerging reforms. However unlikely a Labour Party win might seem at the moment, if they do prevail a different policy agenda will undoubtedly emerge.
Where planning applications are concerned strategies relating to any local and mayoral elections in May will already have been factored into timescales and public relations activities.  Purdah ahead of local elections has already commenced and from midnight on Friday 21st April a longer period ahead of the General Election will begin. The General Election might mean locally contentious schemes become of greater interest to local MPs’ who are seeking to secure support from their local communities, than otherwise they might have been. There is the prospect of planning committee meetings being cancelled or pushed back to after the General Election – indeed we have already experienced this in West London – and big ticket agenda items being delayed to the calmer waters of  post-election committee meetings.
The development industry as a whole wants certainty. The General Election will be a big and important distraction but any uncertainty should be short-lived as the existing Government seems destined to strengthen its hand.