They say a change is as good as a rest – and DLUHC must be hoping the old adage holds true. It has faced a changing remit, 20 housing ministers since 1997 and regularly shifting departmental heads as well.
New DLUHC secretary of state Greg Clark is a familiar face, having previously been secretary of state for communities and local government in 2015-16. Now, he takes on a flagship levelling-up programme (barely out of the starting blocks) and faces a summer recess, an absent cabinet and an incoming prime minister who will have their own priorities.
But the need for clear policy has only increased. Sight of the promised further detail around the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill is necessary to provide the certainty for all involved in managing and delivering the housing and economic growth the country needs.
The candidates for leader are currently talking more about taxes than levelling up; but the proof will be in who they select for their Cabinet. If Clark stays in his new role, let’s not forget he oversaw the introduction of the Localism Act 2011 and played a key role in the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the City Deals programme. He has a proven track record.
It would not surprise me though to see Gove return to the post – in which case we could expect business as usual and the long-awaited planning reforms.
Either way, the next government needs to engage with industry, which is ready to deliver. What industry needs is consistency to inform its investment decisions and development activity across the country. Frequent changes to policy do not allow for much-needed positive plan-making and decision-taking.
There is a risk that with a general election no further away than January 2025, and housing and planning policy capable of being divisive at the ballot box, there may not be a clear stretch to enact reform. Even if housing need and the NPPF are looked at, full planning reform may now not be achieved in time.
As published in Property Week.
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