Housing secretary tells Tory conference he wants communities to ‘take back control’ but gives nothing away on reforms

New housing secretary Michael Gove failed to address reports he has demanded a complete rethink on planning reforms in a keynote address to the Conservative Party conference which did not mention planning at all and mentioned housing only once.

In a speech that appeared to confirm speculation that Gove sees the levelling up agenda as his priority above addressing the housing crisis, he said he saw his task as “allowing communities to take back control of their futures and creating greener and more beautiful places to live”.

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Housing secretary Michael Gove’s speech focussed on the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda

However, his discussion of housing and development took up little over 100 words of a 1,300-word speech mainly focused on setting out his vision of what Boris Johnson’s ‘levelling up’ slogan might mean.

Gove said he wanted levelling up to deliver strengthened local leadership, an increase in living standards and improved public services in more deprived areas, and people given the “necessary” resources to restore local pride.

On housing, Gove said the government will invest in urban regeneration to put new homes on “neglected brownfield sites”, while at the same time “helping more of those who currently rent to own their own homes”.

He did not mention the planning system or the controversial planning white paper, on which the government is thought likely to perform a significant U-turn. However, his reference to “allowing communities to take back control of their futures”, is likely to be read as a hint the more centralising proposals in the white paper – such as the removal of the ability to stop individual applications in growth areas from being approved, or the imposition of mandatory local housing targets – will not be carried forward.