Tories fear building spree in the shires – but not a pipsqueak from our local MPs.

The government’s planning reforms would lead to a 45 per cent increase in housebuilding under Tory councils outside London whereas the number of new homes in Labour areas would fall.

[Note for East Devon that will be 74 per cent. Owl would like to know what Simon Jupp and Neil Parish are doing about it]

Steven Swinford, Deputy Political Editor, George Greenwood www.thetimes.co.uk 

Conservative MPs have warned Boris Johnson that a “mutant” algorithm at the heart of the planning reforms would lead to overbuilding in the southeast and “permanently disadvantage” the North and the Midlands.

Under the changes, local discretion over the rate of building would be removed and central government would “distribute” an annual target, at present 337,000 a year, among councils using an algorithm. An analysis of data provided by Lichfields, a planning consultancy, shows that much of the new housing would be concentrated in Conservative local authority areas in the suburbs and shires, rather than in town centres.

Nearly 100,000 homes would be built in Conservative local authorities outside London, a rise of 45 per cent. In Labour-held local authorities the number of new homes would fall by 3 per cent, from 57,148 to 55,500.

The analysis was released as Tory MPs criticised the plans during a Commons debate late on Monday. Andrew Griffith, Tory MP for Arundel & South Downs, said that the algorithm was “blind to geography” and called for exemptions for green corridors. He said: “By piling on even more growth in the southeast, the algorithm is locking the North and Midlands into permanent disadvantage. Despite the government’s stated intent, the new formula is levelling down, not levelling up.”

James Sunderland, the Tory MP for Bracknell, said that the government had to apply “some form of judgment” on the science behind the algorithm.

“Many of my constituents are very sensitive about unsustainable house building,” he said.

Tory MPs in the Greater London area were also critical of the algorithm. The prime minister held a Zoom conference last month with 17 MPs, who warned him that the reforms risked “creating the slums of the future”.

The MPs, who included four ministers, said that the proposal to treble the number of homes built in London to 93,532 a year would do “real harm to the Conservative vote”.

A Ministry of Housing spokesman said: “The Planning for the Future white paper sets out longer term reforms which will bring forward a simpler, more transparent planning system. In addition, the consultation on changes to the current planning system sets out the elements we want to balance when determining local housing need, including meeting our target of delivering 300,000 homes, tackling affordability challenges in the places people most want to live and renewing and levelling up our towns and cities.”

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