Planning reform: what will Michael Gove do now?
Michael Gove has been in his new job less than a week and he has already rattled a few cages. The new Secretary of State is heading up the reimagined Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and has called an immediate halt to publication of the Government’s controversial planning legislation. The widely criticised reforms, described as “the biggest shake-up of the planning system for 70 years” are now on hold while Robert Jenrick's replacement reviews the proposed changes.
Key issues for critics of the planning bill are:
- New national targets for housebuilding would see greater increases in London and the South East than in northern towns and cities. This appears to fly in the face of the levelling up agenda.
- Building more homes will not automatically resolve affordability issues.
- There is no detail in the proposed legislation to ensure the right tenure mix to meet the needs of local communities.
- There is an apparent lack of evidence that the planning system is responsible for holding up new housing developments. The Local Government Association says that nine out of ten planning applications are approved but more than a million homes that were given planning permission in the last 10 years have not yet been built.
- The new reforms fast track development and reduce the ability of local people to challenge planning applications.
When he was Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove pushed through a number of major reforms – not all of them popular. He is a politician with a reputation for getting things done rather than keeping people on his side so there is a lot of interest in what he will do next.
What ‘levelling up’ really means remains to be seen. It is certainly an ambition we can all get behind, particularly when the inequalities between the north and south of the country - which have been thrown into sharp relief by the pandemic - are alleged to be worse than those between East and West Germany before reunification. Infrastructure, housebuilding and regional investment in education and job opportunities are all areas that need attention. The detail so far has been scant but it is clear that planning has a major part to play in the Government’s agenda. Maybe Michael Gove is the man to make it happen – but whether or not the public and the property industry will be happy with the end result remains to be seen.
Author : Maryanne Bowring
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