Michael Gove distances himself from 300,000 housebuilding pledge

Housing secretary Michael Gove has distanced himself from the Conservative pledge to build 300,000 new homes a year, saying he’s not “bound” by “arbitrary” targets.

Instead, he talked up shifting the focus to ensuring quality homes are built.

The Conservative Party manifesto pledged to deliver 300,000 homes a year back in 2019.

Michael Gove

However Gove said: “I think it is critically important that even as we seek to improve housing supply, you also seek to build communities that people love and are proud of.

“It is no kind of success if, simply to hit a target, the homes that are built are shoddy, in the wrong place, don’t have the infrastructure required and are not contributing to beautiful communities.

“I am not bound by one criterion alone when it comes to development. Arithmetic is important but so is beauty, so is belonging, so is democracy and so is making sure that we are building communities.”

Target to be missed by a “country mile”

The comments come after Robert Jenrick, the former Conservative communities secretary, warned the housebuilding target would be mixed by a “country mile”.

Jenrick said: “It is a matter of the greatest importance to this country that we build more homes. Successive governments have failed to do this. There’s always an excuse.

“We’ve got to get those homes built because we’re letting down hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens. People are homeless today because we’re failing to build those houses.

“Young people’s rightful aspiration to get on the housing ladder is being neglected because we’re not building those homes.”

Currently the UK is building at a rate of 244,000 a year, but it’s thought this could represent the high point.

A Number 10 spokesman was asked whether the 300,000 homes a year target has been cast aside.

He said: “Our target to deliver 300,000 a year is central to our levelling up mission.

“Those homes need to be good quality, they need to be well-designed and come with the infrastructure that new development needs. That is equally important.

“We’re certainly making progress towards that target.

“Some of the measures in this Bill are designed to remove some of the barriers that can gum up planning applications and cause more resistance amongst local communities.”

Neighbourhood planning system

However some have questioned whether the Bill will worsen the UK’s ability to build homes, given that it appears to place a lot of emphasis on local engagement, which could lead to Nimbyism.

The Bill pledged to create a ‘neighbourhood planning system’, which would be digitilised to make local plans easier to find, understand and engage with.

Joshua Carson, head of policy at Blackstock Consulting, said:  “The government’s decision to abandon the ‘three areas types’ or zonal approach to housing delivery is the Planning Bill’s final death knell.

“As the lynchpin of proposed reforms, zonal planning was designed to make it easier for councils to deliver housing in a strategic and more objective way, similar to other European states.

“’Street votes’, and the potential creation of locally-led development corporations, signal a clear intention to transfer power from the government to the neighbourhood level, with fewer incentives to build homes for the next generation who need them.”

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