Tory MPs rage at housing plan to ‘concrete’ over the shires

Owl still doesn’t know what Simon Jupp and Neil Parish think.

North Somerset faces an increase of 134% and Somerset West and Taunton 129% (East Devon sounds a mere trifle in comparison at 70% = 1,614 houses p.a.) – from tabulation in print edition. Owl highlights comments by Bob Seely, the Tory MP for the Isle of Wight, which seem to echo what we see here.

Caroline Wheeler, Deputy Political Editor

Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, has been accused of “concreting out, not levelling up” as 30 Tory MPs join a rebel WhatsApp group aimed at fighting his planning reforms.

The cabinet minister is facing a backlash from his MPs after he launched a plan last month to build more than 300,000 homes a year, giving councils compulsory targets and creating local zones in which development is automatically approved.

The plan will use an algorithm to produce targets for every area in England based on “relative affordability” and the extent of development.

But figures released by Stantec, the design firm, show huge increases in house building targets in Tory-held suburbs and shires at the expense of largely Labour controlled cities and towns in the Midlands and the north.

According to analysis being circulated among MPs, the 12 biggest reductions in housing targets on 2018-19 delivery are in Labour-controlled urban areas.

These include Salford (-59% dwellings a year), Newcastle upon Tyne (-56%), Liverpool (-48%), Nottingham (-38%), and Leeds and Manchester (both -30%).

Instead, rural and suburban areas will see the biggest rises, including Three Rivers in Hertfordshire (+292%), Eastbourne (+274%), Epsom and Ewell (+266%), Thurrock (+263%), Oxford (+262%), Havant (+261%), Thanet (+246%), Bromsgrove (+244%,), Tonbridge and Malling (+241%), Arun in Sussex (+239%), Sevenoaks (+222%), Isle of Wight (+199%) and Worthing (+198%).

Leaked messages on the rebel WhatsApp group, which has been named the housing algorithm concern group, show the level of dissent among Tory MPs.

One wrote: “This is lighting a slow fuse for an explosion … when our constituents see that we are fast-tracking housing developments in all the wrong places.”

Another added: “This is the equivalent of Gavin Williamson’s disastrous exams algorithm fiasco.”

A third said: “I have spoken to the chief whip and told him there is no way on earth I will vote for this.”

Bob Seely, the Tory MP for the Isle of Wight, said: “Take my constituency … the proposals will see our target increased by more than 100%. Half the island is designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty, yet we will be ordered to build more houses a year than either Portsmouth or Southampton, both cities with major infrastructure and services, and populations almost 70% larger.”

He added: “It won’t help our young, either. Increasing house building does not necessarily result in increased affordability.

“As with many other parts of the UK, we need one- and two-bed homes for residents, built in sensitive numbers in existing communities, with rent-to-buy schemes to support the young.

“We get three- and four-bed, generic housing in soul-destroying, low density, greenfield estates because that is what suits developers.

“From all sides of the political spectrum, people are fed up. This is concreting out, not levelling up.”

Last night a source close to Downing Street said the prime minister was iaware of the backbench concerns.

Jenrick is likely to face a battle on two fronts as he also seeks to push through his devolution white paper, which will create hundreds of new mayors and merge county and district councils into combined authorities.

One Tory MP said: “Both plans are desperately unpopular in the Tory shires, which are the areas that will be most affected by the reforms. This could finish off Jenrick’s cabinet career.”

A ministry of housing, communities and local government spokesman said: “The current formula for local housing need is inconsistent with our aim to deliver 300,000 homes by the mid-2020s and so we committed to reviewing it at this year’s budget.”


One thought on “Tory MPs rage at housing plan to ‘concrete’ over the shires

  1. “The plan will use an algorithm to produce targets for every area in England based on “relative affordability” and the extent of development.”

    Well that’s all right then. The government’s track record for algorithms is flawless – except of course for all those “mutant algorithms” that Boris told us about.

    IMO, this government has got to be the worst ever government ever!! Unless of course you know differently…


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