Michael Gove points finger at councils

Michael Gove has named and shamed seven councils whom he blamed on blocking housing developments.

St Albans, Amber Valley, Ashfield, Medway, Uttlesford, Basildon and Castle Point have failed to submit a local plan for housing since 2004, he said.

Gove added that he would “consider further intervention to ensure that a plan is in place”, pledging “I’m prepared to act wherever there is failure”.

Two of the councils have since hit back, as Amber Valley said councillors approved its local plan on 13 December, while Ashfield District Council said its framework was at an advanced stage.

A spokesman for Ashfield blamed the government for “changing their minds and sending mixed messages” over the past four years.

They added: “We have the crazy situation where the Conservatives in government demand houses are built on green belt only for their own MPs to oppose them.”

Gove said the government would publish league tables outlining how council planning authorities are performing when approving developments.

The 300,000 five-year housing target was made “advisory” last year to ward off a potential backbench Tory rebellion last year.

Despite Gove’s tough talk councils will be able to turn down developments if they change the character of areas or build on the green belt.

Russell Gray, planning director at architect Woods Hardwick, said: “The combined effect of the key changes to the framework, including the emphasising that there is no requirement for green belt boundaries to be reviewed to meet housing need, the inclusion of the word “advisory” in the paragraph stating that the standard method is the starting point for calculating housing need, and the dilution of the five year housing land supply of housing, will inevitably lead to a reduction in planning permissions and ultimately the delivery of new homes that are desperately needed across the country.

“The government has already fallen well short of its own housing delivery target over this parliament and there is little in the changes to give comfort the considerable uptick in supply and delivery needed is on the horizon.

“Far worse, housing completions are very likely to drop further still.

“The first two of these amendments, in particular, are clearly intended as political messages to those local authorities who do not wish to meet their local needs, and aimed at quelling the disquiet of the Tory backbenchers and shoring up votes from those opposed to development in their local areas.”

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