MIPIM UK: Gavin Barwell says volume housebuilders have dominated for too long

Prime minister Theresa May is “very keen” to see a wider range of organisations building new homes in the UK, according to housing minister Gavin Barwell.

Speaking to Building at the Mipim UK conference in London, Barwell added that the government wants to see not just SMEs building more homes, but also “completely new entrants to the market”.

“If you look at our country compared to other countries there’s this huge disparity in terms of the extent to which our industry is dominated by a small number of large players,” he said.

“They do an important job and I want them to carry on what they’re doing, but they’re quite honest that they on their own are not going to deliver the number of homes that we need.”

Earlier during a panel debate, Barwell commented: “Major housebuilders are only going to build out at the rate that they think the market will absorb it and the lesson to me there is what you want, as much as possible, is to have a mixture of different people building out large sites and a mixture of different tenures because all the evidence shows that that is going to lead to a much faster build out rate.

“Also I feel very strongly that if as the minister I listen to all the concerns that the major housebuilders have and if there is evidence behind them and I address them I think I have a right to go back to them and say I’ve done all those things, now you need to raise your game,” he added.

Barwell said infrastructure schemes such as HS2 are “hugely important”, but smaller projects like the new rail spur to Barking Riverside in London play a major part in unlocking sites that “wouldn’t be viable” otherwise.

However, he admitted that “everyone acknowledges it’s taken us too long as a country sometimes to settle some of these issues”.

Barwell said he was hopeful the National Infrastructure Commission would succeed even without statutory independence to ensure that “we never get stuck in five year timetable of politics and elections”.

Barwell also said changes had been made as recently as last night to the proposed planning and housing bill. The amendments will give him power to intervene and mandate councils to work together to produce a compliant plan for the area as the duty to cooperate had not worked well in certain parts of the country, Barwell admitted.

He added he was trying in his forthcoming white paper on boosting housing supply to try and set out a “coherent overall strategy” to give long-term certainty of policy.