Levelling Up committee to look at consultation on policy which followed Gove’s backroom housing targets deal

An influential committee of MPs has launched an inquiry into Michael Gove’s proposed reforms to national planning policy, which were set out following a backroom deal with Tory MPs disgruntled over housing numbers.

The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Select Committee has said it will be examining the consultation into reforms to national planning policy, published on 22 December, which includes a series of measures that would water down the effect of local housing targets.

The committee said its inquiry would look at a range of issues covered by the consultation, including the impact of reforms on housing need and housing targets, and the roll-out of the National Development Management Policies (NDMPs) promised in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.

Clive Betts MP

Veteran Labour MP chairs the committee looking into the planning proposals

The publication of the consultation on reforms to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) followed a deal between the levelling up secretary Michael Gove and backbench Tory activists who had tabled well-supported amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill that argued for the abolition of mandatory housing targets.

In return for withdrawing the amendments, Gove promised to introduce a series of reforms to policy making it easier for councils to argue that they don’t have to meet the housing need figure set by the standard method. This includes explicitly not having to review green belt to meet housing need, and not having to bring forward schemes if they might be out of character with the surroundings.

>> See also At-a-glance: List of councils to have delayed plan-making since Gove’s targets U-turn

>> See also Gove’s retreat into nimbyism spells political trouble for the Tories

The HBF said the deal would result in a “complete collapse” in local plan-making, and at least nine local authorities have already paused work on plans or put them under review in advance of the changes.

Clive Betts, chair of the committee, said the consultation raised a series of questions around local housing need, the government’s stated commitment to its 300,000 homes-a-year housing target, and how this is supported by local plans.

He said: “We are already hearing that the uncertainty of what the planning system will look like, and the state of flux over recent years, is now having an impact on planners, councils and developers.”

He added that he wanted to hear the views of local councils, housebuilders, planners, and other interested parties on the Government’s proposed policies and how they might affect planning and housing provision across England.

The committee said it will start to hear evidence on its inquiry from March onwards, once the consultation itself has closed on 2 March. It said scrutiny was likely to start with an evidence session hearing from planning, local authority, and housing stakeholders.