Gove gives planning role to communities and casts doubt on 300,000 homes target

Speaking to the BBC today, Housing Minister Michael Gove confirmed that the Government would be giving local communities the power to support or veto planning decisions on home extensions, to achieve developments that better suit their needs.

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, published earlier this week, included a proposal for ‘street votes,’ as well as community-led ‘design codes.’ to help reduce local resistance to housing developments. Gove also however told the Sunday Telegraph that the 300,000 target “should not be used as a sole measure of success” saying it is problematic that in the past “people have been driven just to create units of accommodation, rather than homes and communities.”

A spokesman for Boris Johnson later attempted to squash any apparent contraction with the Government’s “commitment” to the pledge, telling the BBC it was “central” to levelling up. However doubt still remains over how binding the manifesto pledge now is to build 300,000 homes a year in England by the mid-2020s.

In suggesting that the 300,000 homes target was not the only measure, Gove added that the Government “would do everything they could to reach it,” adding that the quality of homes was, however, critical.

Gove told the Sunday Telegraph: “Resistance comes down to the quality of what is built, and the fact that housebuilders can make significant profits which are not shared equally with the community.” He added: “The planning system means that developers can override the clearly expressed view of local people.”

Mr Gove agreed more homes were required, but told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it would be “no kind of success to simply hit a target if the homes that are built are shoddy, in the wrong place, don’t have the infrastructure required and are not contributing to beautiful communities.”

The Government remains substantially behind on delivering the target, in 2019/20, its first year in office, 243,000 new homes were built, and this fell falling to 216,000 in 2020/21, partly because of the disruption caused by the pandemic.

The Tories cancelled original reforms planned by Gove’s predecessor, Robert Jenrick, which would have brought in zonal planning system which would see pre-approved developments in designated ‘growth’ areas. However after protests about a ‘mutant algorithm’ alleged to be allocating some areas disproportionately high numbers of homes, blamed for a by-election loss in Chesham and Amersham, there was a Government revolt. The Government recently also suffered several local council election defeats.