Kevin McCloud accuses Government of making ‘deliberately muddled policy’

Television presenter Kevin McCloud has said that the Government’s “confusing” environment, energy and housing policies have been a “very corrosive way of running a country”.

The 64-year-old Grand Designs host was speaking as his property show returns to Channel 4 on Wednesday at 9pm and ahead of the programme’s exhibition event arriving at the NEC Birmingham next month.

McCloud spoke to the PA news agency last week before Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a major U-turn on the Conservative’s climate policies.

House of Fraser BAFTA TV Awards 2016 – Arrivals – London
Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud said the UK was not building enough houses to meet demand (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The host of the long-running show said the Government was “going backwards” on environmental policy and pushing plans that were “very favourable towards big developers” such as on nutrient neutrality.

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill’s amendment to change EU-derived measures, which require developers to ensure no additional substances such as phosphate and nitrogen make it into rivers and lakes, was rejected by the House of Lords earlier this month.

McCloud also said that housing associations and local government wanted to do “great things” on creating green homes but “they don’t feel there’s enough clarity, and enough of a clear drive and incentive from central government”.

He is set to explore the issues in a new Channel 4 climate programme with TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and retail expert Mary Portas.

McCloud said: “It was a huge discovery for me to learn just how deliberately muddled government policy is … in order to create a degree of confusion and a lack of commitment and a lack of bravery amongst housing associations, and local authorities and regions that want to do really well.”

Explaining how it manifested, he said: “So that deliberate obfuscation, the burying of decisions in a paper, the decision to do something and cloaking that decision in central government, to abandon a policy, cloaking it in language that nobody understands, bearing it in the back of a document, making it not a ministerial written statement, but just a response to a letter or something is hugely confusing.

“It happens across housing, and it happens across energy, and it happens across business … It’s a deliberate kind of almost disintegration of policy and I find that really, really, really destructive … it’s a very corrosive way of running a country – is not to be clear.

“It’s been like this now for at least seven to eight years … we need some big, big-vision stuff and the climate change committee has done it … (it is) just that nobody’s listening.”

McCloud also spoke about the UK “not building enough houses to meet demand” and people living in coastal areas and the countryside in the South East being “constantly being priced out of the market because of the number of second homes”.

He said: “We have in this country, a great culture of housing associations, and a great history of social housing.

“So we know we can do it. It’s just really what we need is the political will from central government, but who knows, that may all change in the next year.”

When asked if he was looking for a change of government or perspective, McCloud said “socially minded liberal policies are at the core of housing”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently announced a major U-turn on the Conservative’s climate policies (Alastair Grant/PA)

Last week, Mr Sunak revealed that he was pushing back the ban on new petrol and diesel cars, watering down the plan to phase out gas boilers by 2035 and scrapping the requirement of energy efficiency upgrades to homes.

The Prime Minister said he was confident he would meet net-zero targets to combat climate change and help the UK reach net zero by 2050 amid a backlash to his plans.

McCloud said: “If you’ve got a five-year term, that’s inevitable, isn’t it, we can all create policies coming out of our ears and if we’re going to set them at 2050, many of the politicians writing them, and promoting them, talking about them now will be dead.”

He also said a lot of technology for energy-efficient and green homes was “not rocket science” and was regularly seen on Grand Designs and Grand Designs Live, an exhibition event which features new ideas, innovation and home project guidance.

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) spokesperson said: “Building the homes this country needs is a government priority – we recently laid out an ambitious long-term plan for housing and are on track to deliver one million homes this Parliament.

“We have announced £10 billion investment to deliver more of the right homes in the right places – including £1 billion to unlock unloved brownfield land – without concreting over the countryside.

“To help areas with a high concentration of second homes we are introducing powers to enable councils to apply a council tax premium of up to 100% on second properties. This shows our commitment to prioritising and supporting first-time buyers.”

Grand Designs Live heads to NEC Birmingham from October 4 to 8 and the Excel London from May 4 to 12 2024.