The following is an extract from a recent series of interesting and no holds barred notes produced by Christopher Young KC, Leading Planning Counsel, commenting on the turmoil arising from recent proposals by the Conservative Party to amend the NPPF and UK housing targets
Landform felt it would be interesting to share his notes with a wider audience.
PART 1 – POLITICS IS A DIRTY GAME
So the Conservative Party has decided to abandon housing targets, making it possible for any local authority to resist building the houses needed in their area.
That doesn’t make a lot of sense to most people.
Everyone knows there is a housing crisis in this country. The Government acknowledged we have a housing crisis back in 2013, when the Planning Minister Nick Boles used the phrase in a Parliamentary debate for backbenchers. He said
“I need not start by underlining the scale of the housing crisis faced by this country, the extent of the need for housing, or the grief and hardship that the crisis is visiting on millions of our fellow citizens.”
Lawrence Robertson the MP for Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire (who happens to be my MP) interrupted him to say he didn’t believe there is a housing crisis.
But the Minister rejected that pointing out “there are a lot of statistics to prove it.”
That was 10 years ago. Since then things have only got worse. In parts of the southern England average house prices are 15 times average income. It is the same with the lower quartile ratios.
It is completely out-of-control.
The Government wants more housing delivered and knows the best way to do that is by setting clear housing targets for each local authority area. Hence the NPPF was amended in 2018 to introduce clear targets for each area set under a simple standard methodology.
But now some Tory backbenchers want these clear targets removed and made voluntary only. That is plainly bad news for housing delivery, and the housing crisis. Too many local authorities will not plan for the houses that are needed. And already over 20 have sought to tear up their draft local plans to delete housing allocations.
So why is the Government doing this?
The answer is it’s trying to get its flagship Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill (“LURB”) through Parliament. For that it needs a majority of MPs in Parliament to vote for it. There are 650 seats in Parliament so for a majority one party needs 325. The Tory’s have 365 seats. A comfortable majority of 40 – the biggest since 1979.
But if more than 40 Tory MPs ever threaten not to vote with their own Government, the Govt might lose the vote. Worst still is when their own MPs vote against their own Government.
The Tory MPs who make up the Housing Target Rebels number 59. That is enough to vote down the LURB. But far more significantly if the Bill was voted down it would bring down the Government.
Surely they would not want to bring down their own Government?
But that is what they have threatened to do. And why Michael Gove as the Minister responsible for the LURB has had to suggest these amendments to the NPPF. Because it’s what the rebel MPs have demanded in return for voting for the LURB.
So why are they doing it?
Well the Liberal Democrats are a big part of it.
Written by Christopher Young KC