Simon Clarke says housing plan will be unveiled within weeks but adds he wont ‘impose cardboard boxes across our shires’
Levelling up, housing and communities secretary Simon Clarke has pledged to “go further” to build the homes needed in the UK, using his set-piece party conference speech to help get people onto the housing ladder.
However, the newly appointed secretary of state announced no new initiatives designed to meet that ambition, promising instead to unveil more detail on the government’s housing strategy in the “coming weeks”.
His commitment to building more homes came despite new PM Liz Truss pledging to abolish “Stalinist” local housing targets, something which planners and housebuilders fear will see local authorities drastically reduce the number of homes they are planning for.
It also comes as his department was this week unable to confirm whether the government is still committed to the 2019 manifesto pledge to build 300,000 homes a year.
Clarke said in his speech on the main stage of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham that he wanted to “reassure those hoping to get on the housing ladder, that you remain at the heart of our agenda for Government”.
He said that while the “Investment Zones” announced in the chancellor’s mini budget “will help deliver many of the homes that we need”, “we must go further”.
The chancellor’s Growth Plan included a promise of the publication of a “vision to unlock homeownership for a new generation” at some point “later this autumn”.
Clarke said yesterday: “In the coming weeks I will be fleshing out how we intend to get more homes on the market, and improve access to those homes.
“This will build on the work of both this government’s recent measures to lift the worst of the Stamp Duty burden, and of previous Conservative administrations, which is paying dividends in the form of record numbers of homes being built today.”
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He said he wanted “to build more houses”, but do so “in the right way”, by “accelerating development of brownfield sites” and “building beautifully”. He said: “We want to grow organic communities, not impose cardboard boxes across our shires. As with investment zones, local consent will sit at the heart of our plans.”
In comments made to the Times at the weekend, Clarke implied that greater incentives for local communities to accept development were likely to replace the compulsion for housing contained in the “top down” housing numbers. He told the Times that he wanted to “create incentives for residents to support development”. He said: “What I would like is to have a system … whereby if you’re a resident of X community there is something in it for you about a new settlement in your area.”
His comments come after figures from the planning system show that quarterly residential planning approvals have already fallen to their lowest level for 10 years, with many departments struggling with resources and a number pulling local plans or unable to make decisions due to the nutrient neutrality crisis.
Simon Clarke also used his speech to stress the continued importance of levelling up to the government, while also stressing the role of the chancellor’s new policy, Investment Zones, in delivering it.