In a speech on 24 July Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove set out a long-term housing plan to get Britain building many more homes, to help deliver 1 million new homes during this Parliament.
In his speech, Michael Gove referenced building more beautifully by empowering more people to build homes themselves, both by scaling up Community Land Trusts and by “making more resources available to support custom and self build homes”. This comes off the back of Housing Minister Rachel Maclean’s commitment to the sector, as stated at NaCSBA’s recent Parliamentary reception (and in her thank you letter).
The long-term housing plan has 10 principles, with a focus on building in urban centres, with an inner-city “renaissance”, using his Medici approach set out in the Levelling Up White Paper.
The focus on 20 urban centres for housing, which Gove stated was the “right thing to do, economically, environmentally and culturally”. This focus on Brownfield redevelopment rather than suburban sprawl on Greenfield areas is specifically designed to protect the countryside.
Key to this approach is an ambition to relax planning rules, further relaxing of permitted development rights to allow existing buildings, such as betting shops and takeaways, to be converted more easily into new homes. Part of the plans also involve making it easier for existing homeowners to extend and build up to create space for expanding families.
Gove’s speech follows Rishi Sunak’s commitment that the Conservatives will meet their target of to delivering a million homes before the next election, most probably in 2024.
Gove’s speech stressed that by focusing on Brownfield development with existing services in place, they would, in effect, be removing the ‘hope’ value that landowners and property speculators have when hoping to bring land to market.
Gove also pledged £24million to invest in quality planning, a doubling of the existing budget to clear planning backlogs, and also a new “super squad of expert planners” to deal with areas one by one, starting with Cambridge.
The overall message focused on speed and scale, but without compromising on quality and beauty, with new Design Codes and a future homes standard being considered to ensure this.
To date the recent Government has not hit its 300,000 homes a year commitment, and the Local Government Association sounded a warning note about the suitability of converting betting shops and restaurants into homes, saying relaxing permitted development rights does not generate quality new homes, as these buildings are not always suitable.
NaCSBA’s Head of Policy Andrew Baddeley-Chappell was at the event and asked the following: “The biggest single difference between us and every other major economy is the lack of consumer choice when it comes to new homes. In Germany there is a single website that allows people to choose from 2,300 different homes from 350 different companies.
“Can I urge you to do all you can to allow consumers the power to deliver better homes, better choices and more inspiring homes. Homes that make us want to come home at the end of the day to our home, not approach that dreary, standardised, commoditised, horrendous option that is too often being offered at the moment.”
To which Gove replied, saying, “I think you have more vividly and lyrically articulated what I was trying to say, but yes is the short answer.
“So again I don’t want to criticise any existing players in the field because the market is as the market is, but I believe very strongly that we will unlock support for more development and that we will have happier citizens if there is a greater degree of control over the aesthetic quality and design of new buildings. Custom and self build has to be part of that and the work that Richard Bacon and you have done has had a powerful impact on me.
“But we can’t just rely on custom and self build, though we need to expand that, as we also need to think hard about how we can make sure that we build attractive places, not just individual units. In that regard there are two professions that are vital to this. Planning, which is often regarded as a means of facilitating numbers, but thoughtful master-planning is critical, and architecture.
“And again, we have a brilliant generation of architects coming up through the profession, who understand the need to recapture the imagination of the population, by building beautifully. The work that the Office for Place will do, under Nick Boyes-Smith and others will be integral to helping that.”