The Gove agenda

Is this the last throw of the dice for Gove on planning reform?

With time rapidly running out before the election, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has put forward an idea to bump up housebuilding which he might just get through in time. 

It comes out of the fact that the Conservative government does not like Labour Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. Accusing him of adopting planning policies which hinder development, Gove ordered a quick review of the London Plan. The four-member panel included DLUHC’s favourite planning silk Christopher Katkowski (or ‘KitKat’) and ex-Local Government Association Chair James Jamieson, who has just been given a peerage. 

This review could not find any policy in the London Plan to remove or alter, but did come up with a short cut: a presumption to grant permission on brownfield sites. They wouldn’t apply it on Green Belt or open land sites, and would still balance public benefit against harm to heritage assets. And it would only happen for councils which were below their housing targets. 

So taken by this was the Secretary of State that he has proposed to apply it everywhere – not just London. A quick consultation opened this week, to conclude on 26 March; if it is able to go ahead, national Planning Policy will be amended: the Secretary of State has legal power to change planning policy without much Parliamentary scrutiny. 

There are two parts of the change. Every council will have to give weight to the need to deliver more homes on brownfield sites, and a brownfield presumption will apply if any of the 20 largest urban councils are falling short on housing delivery. Where a council is ordered to apply a brownfield presumption, it will still be its planning committee deciding how to balance it. More work for the Planning Inspectorate? 

Sadiq Khan may be looking quizzical about this new policy. His first go at a London Plan included a ‘Small Sites policy’ which gave outer London boroughs high targets to be achieved by higher density developments on sites below 0.25 hectares – almost all of which were brownfield. Planning inspectors cut it back and the Mayor reluctantly complied. 

Meanwhile Michael Gove may have given away his confidence about the Conservatives’ chances of regaining the Mayoralty by adding an extra question on the consultation about raising the threshold for referring applications to the Mayor. 

DLUHC’s consultation closes on 26 March, which is within the ‘purdah’ period before the Mayoral election and would be after the time a May general election would have to be announced. 

One comment

  1. The biggest issue that we’re facing London is the one 106 commitments that will put on developers when they were making good profits

    With the increased building expenses, and now the market very suppressed these need to be taken away

    The developers have been so hard with the 106 commitments cill payments

    The other major issue is all the red tape and the new regulation. The second staircase has again cost so much money slowly, but surely everybody has killed off construction

    Until we have changes that allow us to make profits nothing will be moving

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