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Guildford’s MP Welcomes Government’s Expected Relaxation of Housing Targets

Published on: 6 Dec, 2022
Updated on: 7 Dec, 2022

By Martin Giles

Guildford’s MP Angela Richardson has welcomed the news that housing targets could be made advisory rather than mandatory under the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.

The news came late yesterday and followed pressure on the government by scores of Conservative MPs who were worried that overdevelopment in their constituencies was losing support for their party. They had threatened to all togetherback an amendment that would have forced the government to abolish all together the target of building 300,000 homes a year in England.

Tomorrow, Dragon editor Martin Giles will interview lead councillor Joss Bigmore on the local impact of making housing targets more flexible. Please check back.

Michael Gove MP

Housing Secretary Michael Gove, the MP for Surrey Heath which includes the Ash and Ash Vale wards of Guildford Borough, has now offered councils more flexibility over meeting the government-set targets. Rebels had argued they are excessive, and undermine local councils.

Ms Richardson, a Rishi Sunak supporter and PPS to Health Secretary Steve Barclay, would not reveal if she was one of those MPs but said the expected change of policy: “…is a welcome one that recognises the situation on the ground. This decision, if it happens, will prevent the need to implement clearly inappropriate planning schemes simply to chase a housing target.”

She continued by pointing out that development should continue and that infrastructure should accompany it, a concern often expressed in the borough.

Angela Richardson MP

Ms Richardson said: “But this change isn’t about stopping housing. We need places for people to live, to keep families together and the housing market balanced. We also need the infrastructure that building homes brings. What the government is doing is handing power back to local people and that is always a good thing.”

And she reiterated her call for Guildford’s Local Plan to be reviewed: “This change would certainly strengthen my previous call to review the Local Plan. The government has given local councils and communities the space to look at planned developments and decide what schemes contribute to their area and keep them, while allowing them to drop those that do not. That is important work that should be done as quickly as possible.”

Former minister and leading rebel Theresa Villiers said the government’s plans were a “compromise” that would “rebalance” planning rules.

In a press release, the Department for Levelling Up said the targets would become a “starting point” for development, with new flexibilities to “reflect local circumstances”.

The controvesial targets, calculated using a government formula, have to be incorporated into councils’ 15-year housebuilding plans. Councils that fail to do so can have their power to block new developments curbed.

Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely, another prominent rebel, said ministers had agreed that councils should be able to take an area’s density and “existing character” into account when applying the targets.

Antipathy with the Conservatives over planning has manifested itself clearly in local elections in Guildford and other parts of Surrey. Very poor results at the 2019 borough council election were followed last year with disppointing results in the county council election last year.

In Surrey, the move away from the Tories continued in October when the Conservatives lost a GBC seat at Tillingbourne. This week two more council seats, one a county council seat at Spelthorne and one in Guildford’s neighbouring borough Waverley were lost. All went to the Liberal Democrats, despite the party remaining stuck at only 10 per cent in national polling. Nonetheless, the Lib Dems will be hoping to take further advantage, locally, of the Conservative’s unpopularity, especially at the next borough council and general elections.

And the bad news for the Tories does not end there. It has been reported that donations to the Conservatives slumped by 40 per cent over three months, according to Electoral Commission, figures which also show the party being overtaken by Labour for the first time in more than a year.

The Conservatives collected just under £3 million from July to September, a period that included the end of the Boris Johnson premiership and the subsequent leadership election. That compared with £5.4 million in the previous quarter and is the lowest figure since mid-2020.

At the same time donations to Labour jumped by nearly a quarter to £4.7 million, boosted by spending from unions and individual donors.

 

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test 3 Responses to Guildford’s MP Welcomes Government’s Expected Relaxation of Housing Targets

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    December 6, 2022 at 10:02 pm

    What ever the adjusted housing numbers just add two zeros times 2.5 and that is the volume of drinking water needed per day!

    Anyone have a new source of water yet?

  2. Stuart Barnes Reply

    December 7, 2022 at 9:30 am

    The fake ‘Conservatives’ may be useless but to replace them with the ridiculous Liberals is merely to change the bad to the worse.

  3. David Roberts Reply

    December 7, 2022 at 4:32 pm

    If, as she claims, Ms Richardson supports a meaningful review of the Tories’ own defective Local Plan, will the Tory group on GBC finally support the calls GGG have been making over three years for just that?

    R4GV have shilly-shallied about this, and the LibDems have no party position at all. The LibDem leader remains silent on the issue, while Cllr George Potter says it is a tenable policy to do absolutely nothing (see https://guildford-dragon.com/opinion-sitting-tight-on-the-local-plan-is-still-the-safest-option-for-now/).

    All local parties need to sort this out before Labour re-imposes national targets.

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