Government to face pressure over planning changes

HousingImage copyright
PA Media

The government will face pressure over proposed changes to the planning system in England later when MPs debate a new formula for assessing housing need.

Tory backbenchers have expressed concern about the formula, which analysis says could see big rises in the number of new homes for some areas.

Conservative MP Bob Seely said the plan would “hollow out our cities and suburbanise the countryside.”

The government said the plan was “still part of a consultation”.

But a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said they needed to make sure the formula was “set up to deliver the new homes the country needs”.

MPs will debate Mr Seely’s motion on Thursday afternoon, which urges the government to delay the introduction of the new system until the Commons has a chance to fully debate and hold a meaningfully vote on it.

Members may get a chance to vote on Mr Seely’s motion on Thursday – but the result would be non-binding.

The Isle of Wight MP argued the new formula would lead to increased numbers of homes in the rural shires and suburbs, while housing in the urban North and Midlands would fall.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Seely described the plans as “the worst of all worlds”, adding: “This is not levelling up, it is concreting out.”

He said: “Tory shire voters will be furious [and] red wall voters will feel betrayed”.

The MP called on the government and MPs to find “a better way to balance new housing for first time buyers with protecting communities from urban sprawl”.

‘Speculative’

According to research carried out by Lichfields Consultants for the House of Commons Library, seen by the BBC, the revised formula could mean major increases in the number of new homes for some areas.

For example, in each of the county council areas of Norfolk, Leicestershire, Kent and Worcestershire, it translates to around an extra 2,000 homes a year over 15 years.

But a spokeswoman for the MHCLG said, as the plan is still out for consultation, “the figures reported are entirely speculative”.

She added: “It has been over two years since the current formula was introduced, so we need to make sure it is set up to deliver the new homes the country needs.

“What we are proposing are not targets, they would provide a guide for councils on how many homes may be needed in their area.

“This would be first stage in the process to measure demand, and as before, environmental constraints like Green Belt and land availability will be taken into account.”

The formula is part of wider government plans to overturn the planning system.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionBoris Johnson has defended his proposals for overhauling the planning system.

The government said its proposals – which are open to consultation until 29 October – included allowing more building on Brownfield land, ensuring all new streets are tree-lined and requiring new homes to be “zero-carbon ready”.

Challenged about the subject at Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson insisted there was “an abundance of Brownfield spaces across the whole of the UK”.

And setting out his plans in August, he said it took “far too long to build a home in this country” and suggested the planning system was partly to blame.

The government has insisted that local communities will be consulted “from the very beginning of the planning process”.

Source Article