The Government has “a duty” to the next generation to build more homes, Robert Jenrick said on Monday as he faced down Conservative MPs who want him to water down controversial planning reforms.
The Housing Secretary insisted that it was only fair that ministers should reform the current system so that young people could “aspire to own the keys to their own home”.
The comments came after Tory MPs used a Commons debate to press the Government to water down planning reforms that were blamed for last week’s shock defeat in the Chesham and Amersham by-election.
Writing in The Telegraph, below, Mr Jenrick says: “The belief that home ownership should be achievable for all who dream of it and that young people should aspire to own the keys to their own home.
“We have a duty to young people and families to help them get there, and benefit from the security and prosperity that it can bring.
“The overwhelming majority of people aspire to it, even if it seems a distant dream to many. We want to make that dream a reality.”
Reforming a ‘cumbersome, complicated’ system
But to make this happen, he says, “the current planning system needs reforming. It excludes local people. It is cumbersome, complicated, and hugely difficult for ordinary people to navigate.
“This Government is serious about delivering for the next generation, whilst addressing the inadequacies of the current system to protect and enhance communities and local democracy.”
A new Planning Bill, due to be published in coming months, is likely to force local authorities to adopt new housing targets as part of the Government’s commitment to build 300,000 new homes a year.
Critics claim that this will drive more building on to greenfield sites, ignoring brownfield sites which already have permissions for new homes.
The Telegraph understands that one way to make the reforms more acceptable is to offer cash incentives to communities to accept large scale development in their area.
Another is a “use or lose it” plan to take away planning permissions from developers that refuse to start building in the hope that land values will increase.
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‘We are not NIMBYs nor BANANAs’
Conservative MPs representing constituencies across England lined up in a Commons debate on Monday to sound the alarm about the planning reforms.
William Wragg, the Conservative MP for Hazel Grove, said: “We are not NIMBYs… nor are we ‘BANANAs’, that is to say Building Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody.
“What we want to see is a planning process that involves and engages people and builds the houses that we most certainly need.”
Sir John Hayes, MP for South Holland and The Deepings, warned that to hit current population forecasts the Government would have to build “a settlement over the size of Bedfordshire” by 2041.
Claire Coutinho, the Conservative MP for East Surrey, said she wanted “greater flexibility on what the right number of homes should be based on local areas’ capacity to deliver”.
Bob Seely, Conservative MP for Isle of Wight, who chairs a group of up to 100 Tory MPs fighting the reforms, called for a bigger say among local people to fight unpopular development.
He said the current “process continues ‘reductio ad absurdum’ like some planning wheel of doom. It is a road to nowhere and we need a better system”.
House building ‘grates upon constituents’
Chris Green, Tory MP for Bolton West, said “house building is almost the number one issue in my constituency – it really does aggravate and grate upon my constituents.
“To see people campaign intensively so hard against a particular development and then see that development go ahead or the developers come back again and again with new alternatives is very frustrating.”
Sir John Redwood said his Wokingham constituency had been “afflicted in recent years by some landowners and developers gaming the system – thousands of planning permissions are outstanding”.
Andrew Griffith, Tory MP for Arundel and South Downs, accused local builders of trying to build on “over 30 acres of species-rich woodland, against the wishes of local people and the neighbourhood plan”.
He said: “The homes that the nation needs should be built on brownfield land or urban areas.”
He added that a “sensible target” for new homes was one new dwelling for every 160 adults living in an area – yet in London, only one new home was built for every 400 adults living there.
‘Our planning reforms will cherish the past and build for the future’
By Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government
The property-owning democracy is one of the foundations of our country: the belief that home ownership should be achievable for all who dream of it and young people should aspire to the keys to their own home.
We have a duty to young people and families to help them get there, and benefit from the security and prosperity it can bring. The majority of people aspire to it, even if it seems a distant dream to many. We want to make that dream a reality.
Equally, it is clear that many people have concerns about new housing in their area. They want good-quality homes, proper infrastructure, and they want to protect spaces such as the green belt. We have a duty to hand the next generation an enhanced natural and built environment.
We are listening. Many of these worries hinge on the fact that our current planning system is not trusted. It is seen as too complicated, too weighted in favour of big constructors to the exclusion of smaller house-builders and local people. I agree.
This government is serious about delivering for the next generation, while addressing the inadequacies of the current system to protect and enhance communities.
It doesn’t sound like the other political parties want to do either of these things. Labour, who called a debate on planning on Monday, have an appalling track record on providing the homes that people need.
The Liberal Democrats are no better. They resort to some brazen lies about our planning reforms that need correcting.
At the heart of our reforms are six key ideas.
First, we will protect the green belt and the environment, prioritising building on brownfield, backed by more than £10bn of regeneration funds in this Parliament. We’ll keep all green-belt protections, with councils still responsible for local decisions.
Second, locally popular and better designed housing. We will enable communities to develop their own design codes.
Third, more affordable housing and infrastructure built alongside homes. We’re making it easier and quicker to build the infrastructure we were elected to deliver. Reform means transparency and certainty for councils and local people, the opportunity to fund vital local infrastructure, and more of a say for locals on what levy receipts are spent on.
Fourth, we’re levelling the playing field for smaller builders. The sheer complexity of the current system favours those with the deepest pockets, while SMEs are disadvantaged because they don’t have the frequent engagement with the system that allows them to accumulate knowledge of its rules. We’re breaking the volume builders’ stranglehold, reducing barriers to entry by the new, simplified way that builders will contribute towards local infrastructure.
Fifth, we’re tackling land banking. We have consulted on new ways to ensure that developers follow through on their promises and build out sites as expected.
Finally, we are enhancing local democracy and community engagement. We will be giving communities greater control over what to build where, including strengthened neighbourhood plans, replacing jargon-laden and technical documents with simple assessments; creating design codes that reflect the preferences of your area, and extending participation to all.
With our planning reforms, we will cherish the past, adorn the present and build back better for the future.