Gove to target council planning units that drag their feet on housing

Gove to target council planning units that ‘drag their feet’ on housing

The Housing Secretary is expected to announce he will take on council planning departments that “drag their feet” when it comes to processing housing applications.

Michael Gove, in a speech in central London on Tuesday, is set to say that he will call out local authorities where planning performance has been poor.

He is expected to pledge to intervene if there have been delays to house building as a result of poor performance among planning teams.

In his address, the Cabinet minister is also due to announce a series of measures to boost planning performance across the system.

A source at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) said: “We have been clear that the Government is on the side of the builders and not the blockers – councils must play their part and deliver the homes this country needs, without concreting over the countryside.

“The Housing Secretary has already told councils that they need to step up, and we are providing a lot of support to help them do so — so those that continue to drag their feet can expect to face Government intervention.”

The Housing Secretary, in an interview with The Times, said there would be “no excuse” for not dealing with planning applications promptly under reforms designed to deal with England’s housing shortage.

The newspaper reported that Mr Gove plans to give local authorities three months to put in place plans to meet the housing need in their area.

Those that fail to meet the deadline could have developments forced upon their area and councillors could also be stripped of their powers to delay applications, the report suggested.

Mr Gove told The Times: “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.

“There is no excuse for the arbitrary refusal of planning permissions. Delay, no. Denial, no.”

Mr Gove’s speech on Tuesday is set to be the first of a number of interventions into the planning system, with further announcements expected this year, officials in his department said.

In July, it was confirmed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Mr Gove that the bulk of Britain’s new homes will be built in major cities as the Conservative UK Government looks to avoid building in rural areas.

The announcement came only weeks after the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Select Committee said that, while the Government was on track to deliver one million new homes over the course of the current Parliament, it was not forecast to deliver 300,000 net new homes per year by the mid-2020s — a target in the Tory 2019 election manifesto.

DLUHC said ministers were “continuing to deliver” on the target of building one million homes over this Parliament, between 2019 and January 2025.

Officials said numerous measures to help build homes had been introduced, including bringing forward the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act, which is designed to speed up the planning system, hold developers to account, cut bureaucracy and encourage more councils to put local plans in place.

Deputy Labour leader and shadow housing secretary Angela Rayner said: “Michael Gove’s latest announcement is truly through the looking glass.

“Despite all this tough talk, he and Rishi Sunak have stripped away every measure that would get shovels in the ground and houses built to appease their backbenchers.

“We simply can’t be expected to believe that the Government will take the steps necessary to get the homes built that Britain desperately needs.

“The Conservative government has sent housebuilding into crisis, with rock-bottom rates of planning permission decisions, spiking interest rates and housebuilding set to plummet.

“The devastating impact of this Government’s reckless decision to abolish local housing targets will have real consequences for housebuilding rates across England, threatening to lock a generation out of getting a secure home of their own.”

Last year, Mr Sunak dropped compulsory housing targets to ward off a potential backbench Tory rebellion, choosing instead to make the 300,000 target in England advisory.

Ms Rayner said Labour would “take the tough choices” to “deliver 1.5 million homes over the next Parliament”.

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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