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Downing Street has insisted the Government remains committed to its target for building new homes after Housing Secretary Michael Gove said it was only “one criterion” ministers had to consider.
Mr Gove acknowledged the aim to build 300,000 homes a year would not be met this year but said the Government was taking steps to overcome local opposition to new developments.
He said such developments often faced understandable resistance among communities because they were of poor quality, without the requisite infrastructure and built in the wrong location.
“People have been resistant to development because too often you have simply had numbers plonked down simply in order to reach an arbitrary target. You have had dormitories not neighbourhoods,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
“I think it is critically important that even as we seek to improve housing supply, you also seek to build communities that people love and are proud of.
“It is no kind of success if, simply to hit a target, the homes that are built are shoddy, in the wrong place, don’t have the infrastructure required and are not contributing to beautiful communities.
“I am not bound by one criterion alone when it comes to development. Arithmetic is important but so is beauty, so is belonging, so is democracy and so is making sure that we are building communities.”
Mr Gove added that he did not want to be “tied to a Procrustean bed” – a reference to the Greek myth of Procrustes who tortured people to make them fit into a one-size-fits-all bed.
Ministers hope measures in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – announced in the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday – to give residents a greater say in planning decisions will lead to greater local acceptance.
It is expected to enable local communities in England to stage referendums over the style and size of extensions, new homes and conversions on their street.
Ministers are said to hope it will encourage support for more intensive development by allowing residents to make improvements to their properties that would significantly increase their value.
But Downing Street stressed that the 300,000 homes-a-year target remained “central” to the Government’s “levelling-up mission”.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Those homes need to be good quality, they need to be well-designed and come with the infrastructure that new development needs. That is equally important.
“We are at 244,000 a year currently. Some of the measures in this Bill are designed to remove some of the barriers that can gum up planning applications and cause more resistance amongst local communities.”
But some senior Tories have expressed concern that failure to meet its manifesto pledge to build 300,000 homes a year was damaging support for the party among people desperate to get on the housing ladder.
Former housing secretary Robert Jenrick warned that the Government was set to miss the target “by a country mile”.
Speaking in the Commons Queen’s Speech debate on Tuesday, he raised concerns that the number of homes built under Boris Johnson’s first year in office would be the “high-water mark” for “several years to come”.
“It is a matter of the greatest importance to this country that we build more homes. Successive governments have failed to do this. There’s always an excuse,” he said.
“We’ve got to get those homes built because we’re letting down hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens. People are homeless today because we’re failing to build those houses.
“Young people’s rightful aspiration to get on the housing ladder is being neglected because we’re not building those homes.”