Senior Conservatives are poised to ambush the Government with a series of backbench debates over the coming weeks
By Richard Vaughan, September 18 inews.co.uk
Downing Street is facing a furious rebellion of up to 70 Tory MPs over plans to overhaul the planning system in a bid to radically boost house building across England.
Senior Conservatives are poised to ambush the Government with a series of backbench debates on planning reform in the coming weeks that will provide dozens of MPs the opportunity to attack the proposals.
The move is to send a signal to No10 over its plans to introduce an algorithm into the heart of the planning system that will determine how many houses should be built in each area in order to meet the Government’s promise to build 300,000 new houses a year.
Several analyses of the algorithm have shown it will lead to a major increase in housing in Tory-held shires and suburbs, as well as rural parts of the north, but force a decrease in housing in more Labour dominated urban areas.
Boris Johnson is now facing warnings that the proposals, which are currently at consultation stage, will not get through the Commons as the opposition on the Tory benches is “bigger than his majority”.
Tory MPs are expected to stage a debate on planning reform in the coming weeks to display the level of anger to Downing Street with the aim of forcing a fresh u-turn.
This will then be followed up by a series of debates on local planning in the counties staged by individual MPs to ram the point home.
One Tory backbencher, who described themselves as a government loyalist, said the anger over the plans runs “deeper than No10 realises” and laid the blame at the door of Mr Johnson’s senior adviser Dominic Cummings.
“There are 40 of us regularly meeting about the issue, but easily 70 are opposed to it, including ministers and government whips.”
Downing Street is eager to push through the policy as part of sweeping reforms to the planning system, which it sees as vital to consolidating its control in former Red Wall seats. But MPs fear it could backfire in local elections next year and in the general election in four years time.
“This is being driven by Cummings and No10. [Housing Secretary] Robert Jenrick doesn’t have the political leeway to push back because he is on borrowed time. No10 is determined to push it through because Cummings hates the Conservative Party, he hates Conservative MPs and he hates Conservative members,” the source added.
Change to come
The Prime Minister and Mr Jenrick have been listening to MPs’ concerns, but no changes have yet been forthcoming.
Andrew Bridgen, MP for North West Leicestershire, said he was “optimistic” the plans would be dropped following meetings with the Housing Secretary last week.
“The algorithm is flawed,” Mr Bridgen said. “And I think they are aware of this. If they do not reconsider then the plans will not get through the Commons. The number of MPs concerned by this is bigger than the Government’s majority.”
A Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: “Local housing need proposals provide a guide for councils on how many homes may be needed in their area and councils will still need to consider local circumstances to decide how many homes should be delivered.
“We are consulting on the proposals and will reflect on the feedback.”