Boris Johnson’s drive to build more houses will trigger the next Tory rebellion

(Isn’t this rebellion already happening? – Owl)

Conservative MPs angry that planning reforms could mean most new homes in suburbs and shires – and council will have less power to block

By Nigel MorrisAugust 27, 2020 inews.co.uk 

Boris Johnson is facing a fresh Conservative rebellion over proposed changes to planning laws, which party critics claim will accelerate housebuilding in the countryside.

Tory MPs, who return to Westminster next week following a chaotic summer of policy U-turns by the Government, are also angry that the moves threaten to impose rigid quotas of new homes on local areas.

“If you think A-levels were bad, wait until people get their heads round these reforms,” a former Cabinet minister told the Spectator magazine.

The Prime Minister has vowed to drive through the “most radical reforms to our planning system since the end of the Second World War” in an effort to increase the supply of affordable properties for first-time buyers.

However, he risks a Tory backlash over a proposed formula for determining how many houses are required in individual council areas.

Cities will ‘stagnate’

As part of the Government’s plans to build more than 300,000 homes a year, every local authority will be given an estimate – set by an algorithm – of the projected demand for new housing in their areas. They risk sanction if they fail to set aside enough land to set aside enough land to meet that target.

Neil O’Brien, the MP for Harborough, Oadby and Wigston, has warned the suggested system would lead to a steep rise in numbers of new homes in Tory-controlled shires and suburbs while city centres in need of regeneration would see little change.

“It would be quite difficult to explain to Conservative voters why they should take more housing in their areas to allow large Labour-run cities nearby to continue to stagnate rather than regenerate,” he said.

The proposed reforms will limit the ability of local authorities to block projects, which will speed up the planning process. However, it will also set up conflicts with Conservative council leaders – and supporters – in areas that will be expected to accept the largest numbers of new developments.

MPs restless and dismayed

When the proposals were unveiled this month, the MP for the Cotswolds, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, argued that watering down councils’ power of veto could lead to sub-standard homes.

He said: “We have got to be really sure that we are not building slums of tomorrow by building today at low quality.”

With a majority of 80, a Government could normally afford to shrug off voices of complaint over moves designed to breathe new life into an economy ravaged by coronavirus.

But many Tory MPs are restless and dismayed over Downing Street’s handling of the pandemic, and have seen Mr Johnson order a succession of U-turns.

Many are already exercised over the over the state of post-Brexit trade negotiations with Brussels.

His plans for massive housebuilding threaten to put him on a fresh collision course with his backbenchers.

 

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