Gove backs ‘BIDEN’ in bid to win support for new housing developments

Planning reform is not dead but needs “BIDEN” to succeed, Michael Gove has said.

The Housing Secretary said focusing on beauty, infrastructure, democracy, environment and neighbourhood would secure public support for new housing developments, noting that the acronym formed by these themes spelled the name of the US president.

Speaking at the Centre for Policy Studies’ annual Margaret Thatcher Conference, he said: “A week ago when I was accepting the invitation to come here, I thought should I really endorse Biden in front of this audience?”

Mr Gove said his commitment to BIDEN stemmed from five “rational” objections which communities have to new housing developments.

Denying that planning reform was “dead”, he said it was “absolutely vital” to understand why previous efforts to change planning laws had “foundered”.

These included the poor standard of new homes and a lack of infrastructure, with Mr Gove saying communities “don’t want ugliness to be imposed on them” and were rightly concerned about the pressure on services such as schools and GP surgeries that new homes would bring.

He also criticised the “manipulation” of the planning system by housebuilders who were able to “overturn” communities’ democratic decisions about where houses should be built, and noted concern about the impact on the environment.

Mr Gove said: “Sometimes, of course, this can be a convenient new passion. It is surprising how many communities that had not hitherto shown a fondness for newts and bats can suddenly discover a love of reptiles and flying reptiles, that they did not have before, when new development is promised.

“But nevertheless these environmental concerns are real, they need to be addressed.”

Finally, he said many new developments also lacked a sense of being a “neighbourhood”, having been built without facilities such as pubs and shops, and praised the new town of Poundbury in Dorset for providing such facilities.

He said: “If we do make sure that in the planning reforms we are bringing forward, people understand that new homes will be beautiful, they will be accompanied by infrastructure, there will be democratic decision-making, there will be environmental enhancement and that we are creating new neighbourhoods, then we can build new homes and additional infrastructure that this country needs to power the growth to which all of us are committed.”