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Election Digest: TikTok boomer


With nine million UK users, TikTok is becoming a key election battleground, as parties bid for attention from younger voters in electing their new ‘Meme-ber’ of Parliament.

With 78k followers, Labour has scooped 1.5 million likes by postingmocking satirical content, Shrek memes and calling to lower the voting age to 16. In comparison, last night’s TV debate was watched by less than five million…

The Conservatives’ first TikTok post revealed plans to introduce national service for 18-year-olds. On the face of it, it looks like Labour’s strategy is paying off.

Sticking to what they know, the Conservatives are instead betting on their core demographic – older voters. With some are calling this the ‘boomer election’, they’re focusing on wedge issues to lure voters back from Reform, whether through pension promises, a cap on migration or trans rights.

The TikTok content is undeniably sharable, but we’ll soon find out which strategy will sway turnout at the ballot. Mind you, Nigel Farage’s recent U-turn has certainly put a spanner in the works…

This week, we cover the major updates for the built environment, explore what’s going on across the regions, and dive deep into recent planning and housing updates.


Concrete plans…

Our top built environment updates for the week:

📝 – The FT reports on Labour’s plans to hire 300 planners to “get Britain building again”, but the figure is less than a tenth of the public sector planners who left over the past decade. The news follows The RTPI being selected as the delivery partner for the Planning Skills Fund, a five-year programme to increase planning skills and capacity across local authorities.

📈 – The Centre for Cities’ handy tool gives a pre-election breakdown of socio-economic indicators for all constituencies across England and Wales, compared against the city/national average.

🏠 – Housing wasn’t that central in last night’s leaders’ debate, however, Sunak and Starmer were asked whether the majority of 18 to 35-year-olds living with their parents should change their expectations of home ownership. Click here to hear the responses.

🗳️ – Away from the General Election, Planning Resource has explored the local election outcome and how Thurrock, Rugby, Bristol, Basildon, Cherwell, Castle Point, Runnymede and Dorset’s council changes will impact planning and development.

Local lowdown

Midlands – With Andy Street moving away from politics after his West Midlands Mayoral defeat, the region’s residents are having to balance not knowing who they might be able to vote for yet, whilst coming to terms with several boundary changes. The four boroughs of the Black Country – together with Staffordshire – bear the loss of the region’s two seats, whilst Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Coventry all see boundary changes that could impact results. Mr Street might not be campaigning on his brownfield-first approach to development, but we suspect we haven’t seen the last of him.

East of England – Nigel Farage announced he will stand for Reform in the Essex seaside town of Clacton. He’s got a shot, but had a (milk)shaky start! The hot topic over the past few days has been the selection process for candidates, especially for the Conservatives. Several current and former MPs are finding themselves in what could be described as Conservative-safe seats. We know there are a small number of associations that are not happy with how CCHQ has handled the process. Watch this space for the fallout.

West of England – Labour would devolve more powers to and expand the influence of combined authorities with metro mayors, who would join the cabinet on rotation. Right now, this feels less exciting for the West of England, with its combined authority yet to find its mojo. The North East Somerset and Hanham vote could be the solution. Here, a battle between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Labour’s West of England mayor Dan Norris could leave the region in need of a new mayor. Norris would initially retain his mayorship, but likely step aside at mayoral elections next year – a potential new lease of life which will have regional implications for many years to come. Norris was MP for Wansdyke from 1997 until 2010 when it became North East Somerset and he was beaten by Rees-Mogg. A seat that beautifully articulates there’s so much more behind these contests than vote share alone.

London – In an Evening Standard interview, Starmer said his Government would not continue an anti-London narrative if he was elected as Prime Minister. This is a marked change from the last four years when levelling up was deemed as moving funding from the capital. At the heart of Keir’s pitch was his plan to work closely with Sadiq Khan to build more homes at speed. Opinion polls suggest the Conservatives could be left with two MPs in London, so any “bashing” of the city may have backfired.

South East – Conservative candidates are fighting a war on multiple fronts, with the Lib Dems pushing in Surrey where polls show very safe seats such as Jeremy Hunt’s in South West Surrey could even be at risk. In coastal areas – Worthing, Hastings, Thanet and Rochester – Labour are buoyant about making gains which would have seemed implausible even five years ago. And then there’s the danger of Reform where, even in the truest of blue areas such as Essex, Farage’s announcement to return as leader and to stand in Clacton will be a real blow to the Conservative party’s morale. However, perhaps more worryingly, consequences are far more impactful for the long-term future of the UK’s oldest political party. 

North – In North Yorkshire, Whitby is fast becoming the embodiment of the disaffected, where 15% say they’re still undecided as to which way they’ll vote. The majority of these are women aged 61, who own their own home and are more likely to have voted for Brexit. Traditional Conservative voters, these individuals are disillusioned after years of rising house prices and increasing holiday lets leaving young adults no choice but to live elsewhere. Labour support in Scarborough and Whitby is steadfast. Their candidate, Alison Hume, is a local, which voters have said is increasingly important. Many residents in this North Yorkshire constituency said they felt it was “time for a change”, with everything pointing to this seat potentially turning red in July.

Sector spotlight – housing

The Planning Inspectorate confirming local plan examinations and hearings will continue during Purdah was welcomed, but decisions could still be held back at the discretion of senior managers.

Hopefully, the next few weeks will be short-term pain for long-term gain.

None of the major parties have released their manifestos yet. However, with housing a key concern for voters, we look at what they’re saying and how pledges will impact planning in the wake of the election.

What the parties are saying:

LAB – Although it wasn’t included in Starmer’s ‘six steps for change’, planning reform will prove key if Labour delivers on plans to overhaul the green/grey belt and realise plans for 1.5m homes over five years.

If they win, Labour said it will ‘rip up’ planning rules. The first could include its Take Back Control Act, which would devolve more planning powers to combined authorities. Expect to see other revisions and policy tweaks in the short term, such as the NPPF and scrapping plans for a new Infrastructure Levy.

A longer-term impact would be in the wave of new towns, each with its own development corporation. Rayner said Labour would restore councils’ housing targets and would reveal the new towns list in the first year. If Labour does get in, keep a beady eye out for decisions on called-in applications, which will be a key indicator in setting the future direction.

CON – The Conservatives promised to build 300k homes per year in 2019, but the targets were watered down and became ‘advisory’. Recent reform included the NPPF, a push for brownfield development, speeding up conversions, the Renters Reform Bill and the Leasehold and Freehold Act.

DLUHC has also invested £11.5bn in its Affordable Homes Programme, however, with just 33,550 homes allocated for social rent, the impact has been limited and the industry remains sceptical.

Looking ahead, Sunak said he might bring back Help to Buy loans and introduce mortgage guarantees, but this remains unclear. The biggest challenge ahead will be appeasing NIMBYS in Tory heartlands across the Home Counties, a blocker for whichever party holds power.

LD – The Lib Dems have called on a fairer deal for housing, which provides for the needs of everyone and meets the aspirations of millions of younger people and the less well-off.

Solutions for tackling the crisis include a national target of 150,000 social homes, twinned with a decade-long programme to improve insulation in Britain’s homes.

They plan to expand Neighbourhood Planning and increase democratic engagement in Local Plans, extend the Commercial Landowner Levy and reform the Land Compensation Act. Other plans include building ten new garden communities, abolishing leaseholds, and ensuring developers build the appropriate infrastructure needed for new housing developments.

GRN – The Green Party is also pledging 150,000 new council homes. The party’s Right Homes, Right Place, Right Price Charter outlined bold plans to introduce rent controls and end no-fault evictions. A key theme in the strategy calls for “stabilising house prices and rents so that there is no further real-term growth in housing costs.”

Commitments also include abolishing tax breaks for BTL investors, a bid to make tenancies more secure and abolishing Help to Buy, which – they say – pushes up property prices.

Keep a beady eye out for…

  • 7 June – Deadline for candidate nominations 
  • 13 June – Slated date for Labour’s manifesto launch
  • 18 June – Voter registration deadline
  • 19 June – Deadline for postal vote applicants

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