Prime minister says proposed new planning system will “strike a better balance”

The prime minister said his decision to effectively ditch local housing targets was taken after “thousands” of Conservative counsellors and activists raised concerns.

Rishi Sunak, in an interview with the Conservative Home website today, said he spent the summer speaking to party members when on the leadership election campaign trail.

He said: “What I heard consistently, particularly from our councillors and our members, was what they didn’t want was a nationally-imposed top-down set of targets telling them what to do.

“That [the imposition of top-down targets] wasn’t a particularly Conservative thing to do and doesn’t recognise that all parts of our country are different.”

Sunak said he spent the summer speaking to “thousands and thousands” of Conservative members and “heard the same message from all of them”.

He said: “We do want to build the right homes and the right number of homes and build them in the right places and in the right way. And that means we do need to put local people at the heart of that process and that’s why strengthening local plans is so important.”

 Watch the interview  below

Housing secretary Michael Gove in December announced changes to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which would give councils flexibility to depart from housing targets. Instead of being calculated through a central formula, from which councils can only depart with strong reasons, the targets would instead become merely an advisory “starting point” . The move was a compromise after 50 MPs backed calls for the scrapping of targets altogether.

Sunak said he believes the new-look planning system proposed by the government will be “striking the right balance” .

>>See also: We should be paying more attention to the silent planning revolution

>>See also:  Inside the council planning department resource crisis

In addition to the weakening of local housing targets, the government is also proposing dropping the requirement to review green belt land in order to deliver a local area’s housing need as well as removing the duty to co-operate between authorities to deliver housing targets. It has also set out of a whole raft of other reasons why authorities might be able to justify not meeting the housing numbers produced by the government’s “standard method” formula.

The uncertainty around the changes has led to several local authorities putting their local plans on hold, prompting concerns of a drop in housing delivery.

The proposed changes have also met opposition from figures who believe the government should be doing more to support the housebuiding industry.

Steve Morgan, the founder of Redrow and a past Conservative donor told Housing Today last month that “there’s no help from the government’ for the industry, pointing to the planning changes and regulation on nutrients. He said: ”It’s almost like the government wants to destroy the industry,” he said.

Housing Today’s A Fair Deal for Housing campaign is calling on the government to recommit to its 2019 manifesto pledge of increasing housebuilding to 300,000 homes a year.

A Fair Deal for Housing campaign 

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Housing Today  believes the government should not back away from its manifesto pledge of building 300,000 new homes a year by the middle of the decade. We badly need more homes and a lack of supply is a major factor in creating problems of affordability for both buyers and renters.

Over the next few months, Housing Today   will be exploring potential solutions to help us ramp up housebuilding to 300,000. These are likely to, include different ways of working, funding asks of government and policy ideas that could boost housebuilding.

We want to hear from you: what do you think can make a difference at a policy level?

What can the industry do better?

We believe that, with the right commitments from ministers and the industry, it is possible to build more homes and help the government to meet its objectives to “build beautiful”, improve quality and safety, boost home ownership and level up the UK.

Click here to find out more about the campaign

To contribute ideas to our A Fair Deal for Housing Ideas Zone database, click here.

A Fair Deal for Housing is part of the Building the Future Commission.