A febrile 24 hours in the political world has seen Michael Gove sacked as levelling up secretary and housing minister Stuart Andrew resign, so what now for the housing sector and for self build?
Greg Clark was confirmed on Thursday as the replacement for Mr Gove, who was appointed as the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary in September and introduced the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill in May, which recommends planning reforms including street votes on developments in suburban areas.
Mr Gove also oversaw the launch of the milestone Help to Build equity loan scheme, which is designed to make it more affordable for people to self build.
Meanwhile Mr Andrew, the 20th housing minister appointed in 23 years who lasted just five months in the role, had been given the remit to oversee the government’s planning reforms and meet its target of building 300,000 homes a year, which the government has not achieved since declaring the target in 2019.
At the time of writing no replacement for Mr Andrew has been announced, but these are our key questions for Mr Clark.
1. Will he support the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill?
When Mr Gove took office one of his first decisions was to scrap the much-maligned Planning Bill, which had proposed measures such as a zonal planning system that would have classified land for either growth, renewal or protection. This proposal led to fierce criticism from MPs who feared that this proposal would silence communities left unable to prevent housing developments in their areas.
The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill has replaced this Bill, and proposes several new reforms such as scrapping Section 106 - a legal agreement between an applicant seeking planning permission and the local planning authority - with a community infrastructure levy.
The Bill has had a second reading in the House of Commons, but there is now uncertainty after a committee meeting to discuss the Bill was cancelled on Thursday due to the departures of Mr Gove and Mr Andrew.
Will Mr Clark disagree with parts of the Bill? And if he pledges to amend certain elements of the Bill how will this affect its progression through the select committee?
2. What are the next steps for the Right to Build review?
A review into the Right to Build laws concluded in the summer of 2021, which was conducted to help more self and custom builders access plots of land.
The government responded in June to the Richard Bacon review - which made six detailed recommendations for scaling up the self build and custom build sector including raising awareness of Right to Build - by confirming new legislation would clarify the issue of 'suitable permissions' that remains an issue with monitoring of the Right to Build legislation.
The new legislation will support local authorities to ensure local provision to reflect demand for the registers, but with no set timeline on publication, we await how impactful this could be.
3. Will the new National Planning Policy Framework draft be published?
Mr Gove confirmed last month that a new draft of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) will be published in July, with the intention to “drive up improved environmental outcomes”.
The announcement followed criticism that there is a lack of green commitment in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which shadow housing secretary Lisa Nandy said doesn’t have a “single mention of net zero”.
The new NPPF draft is expected to address these concerns, providing Mr Clark signs off on the plan to publish it this month.
4. Will the government continue to back self build?
The government published a Custom and Self Build Action Plan in April 2021 which pledged to kick-start a self build revolution in the UK, including through the publications of Help to Build and the Richard Bacon review.
Mr Gove oversaw the launch of Help to Build in June, as well as the government’s response to the Richard Bacon review, where it pledged to deliver self build “at scale” in the UK.
Under Mr Gove and predecessor Robert Jenrick it was apparent that self build was a government focus, and this will hopefully remain the case under Mr Clark.
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Jack has worked in journalism for 11 years and is the News Editor for Homebuilding & Renovating, a role he has had since 2019. He strives to break the most relevant and beneficial stories for self builders, extenders and renovators, including the latest news on the construction materials shortage and hydrogen heating. In 2021 he appeared on BBC's The World at One to discuss the government's planning reforms.
He enjoys testing new tools and gadgets, and having bought his first home in 2013, he has renovated every room and recently finished a garden renovation.