Michael Gove vows to stop builders putting up ugly homes (and reduce grounds for objection)

Are “Stalinist” top-down targets back on the agenda?

How is public opposition to housebuilding to be reduced? – Owl

Developers seeking planning permission for ugly new homes will have their projects “called in” by the government and vetoed, Michael Gove pledged yesterday, as he outlined plans to reduce public opposition to housebuilding.

Oliver Wright www.thetimes.co.uk

In his first big speech since being re-appointed as levelling-up secretary by Rishi Sunak, Gove launched a broadside against housebuilders for putting up identikit homes out of keeping with the local area.

He also accused the industry of “manipulating” councils by using loopholes in the planning system to avoid paying for community infrastructure and overturning democratic decisions about where houses should be built.

Gove claimed that under the government’s planning reforms, ministers and local authorities would have the power to hold developers to account and reduce the factors that had made new developments so controversial.

Last month Gove recommitted the government to its manifesto target of building 300,000 homes a year after Liz Truss said she wanted to abolish “Stalinist” top-down targets.

Gove told a Centre for Policy Studies conference that to achieve this it would be necessary to take on board local communities’ objections to building in their area.

“The experience of many buyers is that the incredibly expensive homes that they buy simply aren’t up to the standard that they should be,” he said.

“There are far too many faults and defects. But more than that, for those who have seen new houses built, the fact is that so many house builders are using a restrictive pattern book with poor-quality materials, and the aesthetic quality of what they produce is both disappointing and also not in keeping with the high aesthetic standards that may already exist.

“We will see the wide adoption of design codes and ways in which individuals can appreciate how it is easier to secure planning permission if you build in a way that is consistent with those design codes.

“We will use all the powers we have in order to make sure that developments which are not aesthetically of high quality don’t go ahead.”

Gove cited the example of the King’s model village in Poundbury, Dorset, that adopted traditional housing design and integrated shops and businesses as well as private and social housing within the development zone.

He pointed out that house prices in Poundbury were higher than in neighbouring Dorchester, suggesting that it could be a blueprint for other developments. “If we do make sure that in the planning reforms we are bringing forward, people understand that new homes will be beautiful, they will be accompanied by infrastructure, there will be democratic decision-making, there will be environmental enhancement and that we are creating new neighbourhoods, then we can build new homes and additional infrastructure that this country needs to power the growth to which all of us are committed,” he said.

Gove added that the government also needed to take environmental concerns seriously, but joked that some communities began taking a particular interest in such issues only when housebuilding was threatened.

“It is surprising how many communities that had not hitherto shown a fondness for newts and bats can suddenly discover a love of reptiles and flying reptiles, that they did not have before, when new development is promised,” he said.