The Housing Secretary Michael Gove has pledged to reform planning laws to boost new housebuilding rates to address the ongoing housing shortage in England.
The Times reports that the government is attempting to take action after it failed to achieve the target of 300,000 new homes a year that was set out in the 2019 election manifesto.
The new reforms will see local councils lose their authority to plan house building if they delay or block proposals and fail to put new housing plans in place. The councils that fail to take adequate action could also have developments imposed on them by central government.
The Conservative 2019 manifesto set out a target to build 300,000 homes per year by the mid-2020s. This would increase the amount of housing stock available and potentially drive down prices, making homeownership more affordable and accessible to a wider range of people.
However, the government has consistently failed to meet these targets. In 2019-2020 there were 248,591 homes built or created, and this figure fell to 217,754 the following year, in part due to the pandemic. It has since risen to around 235,000 per year.
The plan will be particularly focused on Cambridge and London, where housing shortages are particularly acute. Gove has said that he will approve plans for upwards of 150,000 new homes around Cambridge, and review London’s current housing plans, overriding decisions by the mayor if necessary.
Addressing concerns about the greenbelt and quality control, Gove commented: “You would not want to change the character of attractive suburban areas where there are already existing family homes. The whole point about planning is that it’s about the thoughtful use of land, what we will do is to give people an opportunity to protect that which is reasonable.”
“I want to see development, I want to see growth, I want to see the sort of excitement about new development that we had when London was expanding in the 19th century and when Leeds and Newcastle were growing. If we can clear the obstacles [to development] away, then we can get excited about the future and about development again.”
He added: “There is now no excuse for not having a [housing] plan in place and no excuse for not making sure that planning applications are dealt with in a timely fashion,” he said. “There is no excuse for the arbitrary refusal of planning permissions. Delay, no. Denial, no. We’re going to be robust and rigorous in making sure that you deliver.”
A new statutory body will be set up that will have compulsory purchase powers, with the aim of furthering the economic development of targeted areas. However, communities will be given an opportunity to voice their concerns and opinions about where any new developments will take place.