The government has parachuted in its most senior planning reform official to oversee efforts to increase housing in the east of England.

Building has learned that Brian Hackland, currently director of planning at the ODPM, has been appointed director of the Government Office for the East of England (GO East).

Hackland has been at the ODPM for the past three years, where he oversaw the introduction of the Planning Act and played a key role in the establishment of the four South-east growth areas as part of the sustainable communities plan. Before joining the ODPM, Hackland worked on environmental policy for prime minister Tony Blair and before that at the Treasury.

As director of GO East, Hackland will be responsible for overseeing the delivery of the government’s regional housing growth plans, which are to go under the spotlight at the upcoming public inquiry into the East of England regional spatial strategy.

The East of England regional assembly, which is responsible for drawing up the strategy, withdrew its support for its own blueprint after being told by Whitehall that it had to provide for more homes than the assembly had wanted. The opening of the inquiry was delayed until the beginning of November after the assembly’s planning director, Alan Moore, suffered a stroke during the summer.

Planning consultant Roger Humber, who represents the business sector on the assembly, welcomed Hackland’s appointment. He added that Hackland’s handling of the east of England inquiry was important because it would lay down a marker for the government’s ability to push through its policy to increase housing supply.

He’s going to have his work cut out. This is probably the country’s hottest planning seat

Henry Oliver, planning director, CPRE

Henry Oliver, planning director at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “He’s going to have his work cut out; this is probably the hottest planning seat in the country at the moment. It will be interesting to see whether the government takes the opportunity presented by a new broom to rethink its position or whether, having been an important player in the communities plan, Hackland will be wedded to the policy.”

Gideon Amos, director of the Town and Country Planning Association, said: “Brian Hackland’s move demonstrates the vital importance of effective planning in one of the most contentious growth areas. The government needs to ensure that the development of homes and sustainable communities does not lag behind. Good planning experience will be key to this task.”

The government will come under greater pressure to increase housing provision next week following the publication of research by Cambridge University academic Professor Christine Whitehead for the TCPA, which will analyse the key drivers of household formation.

In a further move at the ODPM, Mark Kleinmann, former Institute of Public Policy Research fellow, has been appointed to replace David Lunts as director of urban policy.