Rishi Sunak pulls UK housing vote as Tory rebellion grows

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak pulled a vote on the UK government’s housebuilding plans last night as dozens of Conservative MPs threatened the first major rebellion of his premiership.

Some 47 Tory MPs signed an amendment to the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill that would have banned the imposition on local councils of mandatory housebuilding targets.

The bill, introduced by Michael Gove, will still be debated in the Commons later today, but a vote, due to take place next Monday, has been pulled.

The climbdown puts the government’s plans to build 300,000 new homes annually by the mid-2020s in jeopardy and comes after lead rebel Theresa Villiers, the former Northern Ireland Secretary, said the plans would encourage “development which damages the environment and quality of life”.

Villiers said: “This is a significant victory for the backbenches. It shows that ministers know that they need to listen to us and they need more time to come up with a solution.

“We cannot go on as we are with these top-down excessive targets. We must have change. The 50 names on NC21 showed the strength of feeling there is on this issue.”

And Sir Iain Duncan-Smith, former Tory leader, added: “These top-down targets have to go, and if the government does not back down we will vote for this amendment.”

Labour had already said it would not be supporting the rebel amendment – meaning there was no chance of the government being defeated. However, a vote would have been a huge test of the prime minister’s authority just a month after he took office.

The amendment would have meant that housebuilding targets “may only be advisory and not mandatory” and so “accordingly such targets should not be taken into account in determining planning applications”.

It added that the national planning rulebook “must not impose an obligation on local planning authorities to ensure that sufficient housing development sites are available over five years or any other given period”.

A briefing note circulated among the rebels says that the MPs’ big concern was clauses which over-rule “local development management policies”.

“This would mean a major centralisation of planning policy, undermining the longstanding principle which gives primacy to the local development plan,” the note states. “If all these were set nationally, rather than locally, that could open the way for many dense developments which are currently prevented.”

 

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3 Comments

  1. Mark Connelly

    They were never getting 300 000 house anyway.  We have seen the same mythical figure thrown out there by every government since Adam was a boy.

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  2. Anonymous Coward

    And once again, the whole country has been failed because 50 people out of 650 (that’s approximately 7.7% – basically a tiny minority) have decided that NIMBYism is the correct way to run the country.

    It simply cannot be argued that we do not have the correct number of properties in the UK.

    If we did then the whole crazy supply & demand issue leading to house prices doubling roughly every eight years on average wouldn’t exist.

    We need the right kind of housing in the right kind of areas. Local communities and Local Authorities are best suited to work these things out for themselves.

    BUT, a vocal few in each area have a nasty habit of derailing sensible plans because of their own vested interests, rather than looking at the bigger local picture on behalf of their community and future generations.

    If local authorities cannot deliver suitable sites themselves then what else can a government do.  It is supposed to be there to GOVERN, not wimp out in a corner.

    This country is desperately short of property. We ALL know it. Yet for some reason nothing ever gets done and everyone blames everyone else.

    I’m afraid that a top down approach is the only way to get out of this mess.

    Once it’s been dealt with, then we can return to a “local decisions by local people” model, but until then what other solution is there?

     

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  3. mattfaizey

    Somebody needs to look at which of those backbenchers have links to any of the major housebuilders.

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