On Tuesday 19th December, Michael Gove announced new measures in response to the year-long consultation on the government’s national planning policy framework (NPPF). Under increasing pressure from backbench Conservative MPs who have forced a rewrite of what should have been a new plan to kickstart housebuilding in England, Gove has outlined several key changes:

  • The new framework will allow local authorities to not use the current population-based formula to set their multi-year housing plans. Instead, they will be able to set far lower housebuilding targets if they can argue that sticking to the formula would have changed the character of an area or necessitated building on greenbelt land.
  • Gove however did also recommit to the government’s 300,000 annual housing target, claiming that it was economic factors such as high inflation and interest rates that caused the failure to meet the manifesto pledge.
  • The government will publish “robust league tables” highlighting councils’ performance on delivery, which would show “how the system is gamed at the moment by some”.
  • Following on from the announcement earlier this year of the expansion of Cambridge by more than 150,000 new homes, this will now be delivered through the creation of a new statutory body with the power to compulsory purchase land for development.
  • Commissioning of an independent review of the Mayor’s London plan, with Gove threatening to remove planning powers from City Hall.

The implications for these changes on the built environment are mixed. Moving away from a population-based formula for determining projected housing need in local authority areas will no doubt result in lower housing numbers in local plans and further exasperate issues with housing delivery in the home counties. This conflicts heavily with the government’s recommitment of the 300,000 annual housing target. The establishment of a development corporation in Cambridge has the potential to generate significant new homes in the region, in opposition to local authorities that are controlled by all the main political parties. The risk of removing planning powers from City Hall could have wider implications and result in more development in Greater London in an effort to protect the greenbelt.

The Housing Secretary’s full speech can be found here.