Local councils in England’s 20 largest towns and cities could be forced to use brownfield land to build more homes under Tory plans to turbocharge development.
In a bid to woo younger voters struggling to get on the housing ladder ahead of the general election, ministers today announced a major shake-up of planning rules.
The Government is hoping to boost housebuilding, while protecting the Green Belt, by telling every council in England to prioritise brownfield developments.
Extra pressure will also be put on larger councils who are failing to hit their housebuilding targets.
Planning bosses in England’s 20 biggest cities and towns will be made to follow a ‘brownfield presumption’ rule, if housebuilding drops below certain levels.
This will make then it easier to get planning permission to build on previously developed brownfield sites.
Ministers claimed the rule change could see up to 11,500 extra homes built in London every year
But housing minister Lee Rowley this morning refused to say how many new homes he hopes will be built in total across England under the planning shake-up.
Local councils in England’s 20 largest towns and cities could be forced to use brownfield land to build more homes under Tory plans to turbocharge development
In a bid to woo younger voters struggling to get on the housing ladder ahead of the general election, ministers today announced a major shake-up of planning rules
Housing minister Lee Rowley refused to say how many new homes he hopes will be built in total across England under the planning shake-up
Ministers claimed the rule change could see up to 11,500 extra homes built in London every year. They lashed out Sadiq Khan for having ‘consistently failed’ to meet housing targets
The Government today launched a six-week consultation on the proposals with ministers under pressure from Tory MPs to implement the changes as soon as possible.
Documents published by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) revealed the ‘brownfield presumption’ rule could be applied in those 20 towns and cities subject to the ‘urban uplift’ and where their ‘Housing Delivery Test’ score falls to 95 per cent or below.
The ‘urban uplift’ was introduced in 2020 as a change to the standard method for calculating housing need in local areas.
It applies a 35 per cent uplift to the 20 most populous towns and cities in England, which were listed as: Birmingham, Bradford, Brighton and Hove, Bristol, Coventry, Derby, Kingston upon Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Nottingham, Plymouth, Reading, Sheffield, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent, and Wolverhampton.
The ‘Housing Delivery Test’ (HDT) is an annual measurement of housing delivery in local areas by planning bosses.
Under the Government’s proposed changes to England’s planning rules, there would be a presumption in favour of sustainable development on brownfield land in the 20 largest cities and towns where an area’s HDT scores below 95 per cent.
This would be an increase from the current level of 75 per cent.
New analysis published by DLUHC showed the new ‘brownfield presumption’ rule in London could result in 11,500 extra homes per year.
An independent review of the mayor’s London plan also recommended making it easier to get permission to build on brownfield sites.
Mr Rowley attacked Mr Khan’s housebuilding record during a round of TV and radio interviews this morning.
‘You can see when you go around places like London, which has consistently failed to deliver on housing targets, where Sadiq Khan has consistently failed to do that,’ the housing minister said.
But a spokeswoman for the London mayor rejected the review as a ‘stunt from the Government to distract from their abysmal record of failure’ and accused Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of ‘undermining devolution to distract from its record’.
‘The facts are clear – London under Sadiq Khan is outbuilding the rest of the country,’ she said.
‘Housing completions in the capital have hit the highest level since the 1930s, according to the Government’s own data.
‘London is also delivering twice the level of council homebuilding as the rest of the country combined, showing up ministers’ dismal failure nationally.’
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove recently warned that young people shut out of the UK’s housing market could turn to authoritarianism
During his round of broadcast interviews, Mr Rowley was quizzed about the unmet Tory 2019 manifesto pledge to build 300,000 new homes a year.
The Government last year dropped compulsory housing targets to ward off a potential backbench Tory rebellion, choosing instead to make the target to build 300,000 homes a year in England advisory, after construction repeatedly fell short.
Mr Rowley also refused to say how many new homes the Government hopes will be built under the plans aimed at expanding the use of brownfield sites.
He insisted he would not get into a ‘numbers game’ when asked what the target was for further developments under the proposals.
‘The Government is focused on increasing housing in general and we have made good progress on doing that in the last 10 years… but achieving that, building more homes, is all about small-scale policy interventions and then larger policy interventions like today,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
At the weekend, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove warned that young people shut out of the UK’s housing market could turn to authoritarianism.
He told the Sunday Times: ‘If people think that markets are rigged and a democracy isn’t listening to them, then you get — and this is the worrying thing to me — an increasing number of young people saying, “I don’t believe in democracy, I don’t believe in markets”.’
In an article for The Times today, Mr Sunak said he understood ‘people’s anger’ about the fact that home ownership ‘feels too far away for too many, especially the younger generation’.
But he also sought to address concerns from some Tory voters, writing that the Government would not ‘simply ignore people’s concerns or bulldoze through local opposition’.
‘All that would build is resentment,’ the PM said.
Conservative former Cabinet minister Damian Green, the chair of the One Nation group of Tory moderates, said: ‘Any moves that help young people get on the housing ladder, including unlocking the potential of brownfield sites while protecting our countryside and Green Belt, are very welcome.
‘I urge the Government to act decisively to get these measures introduced as quickly as possible and create thousands of more homes.’
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said the Government’s new proposals were a ‘desperate and frankly laughable attempt to blame others for 14 years of Tory housing failure’.
‘A threadbare announcement consisting of old, failed policies and minor tweaks to brownfield planning policy is not going to paper over Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove’s reckless decision to capitulate to anti-housebuilding Tory backbenchers,’ she said.