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Up for a fight?

Architect. One who drafts a plan of your house, and plans a draft of your money. 

The Government may well have decided that it wants to push through its planning proposals from the Housing White Paper as Sajid Javid the planning minister told the National Housing Federation conference last week. However, that doesn’t mean that the message has yet got through to local authorities – many of them Tory-run.

Housing is moving up the agenda for this Government – and about time too. However. When housing minister Alok Sharma addressed the BMF Members day delegates on Wednesday, he highlighted the 34 local authorities who have yet to produce their ‘local plan’ – a calculation of how many new homes they are going to need.

It was something of a coup for the BMF to get an actual, living breathing member of the Government to address its event; the last time we had anyone similar was Steven ‘shagger’ Norris, former MP and (ultimately unsuccessful) candidate for Mayor of London in 2004.

Coup or not, the question of whether Teresa May is going to go all out and take the battle out to the local councils has yet to be answered. I asked the Minister and got a politician’s answer. Of course.

Still, Sharma was clear that neither he, nor the Government, nor the housebuilders, can solve the housing crisis on their own. It requires a great deal of collaboration and that includes with the local authority planning departments as well.

It’s not like successive governments haven’t tried to get this sorted before. The Labour administration’s Kickstart programme s and George Osborne’s focus on subsidising mortgages through the Help-to-Buy, for starters. Nothing’s really done what it needed to do, although Help to buy did give new housebuilding a decent shot of adrenaline to the heart as well as, arguably, fuelling another round of rocketing prices.

The trouble is, developers and housebuilders can still build pretty much what they like, regardless of what the local need actually is, always supposing the authority has bothered with the local plan in the first place.

If things are to change and change properly in terms of housing, then this government is going to have to get tough with local councils and force them , in turn, to get tough with developers in their area, with their own planning departments and with their own residents.

Does Mrs May have the cojones for the fight? We’ll see.

 

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Editor-in-Chief across the BMJ portfolio.

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