The communities secretary has endorsed the building of new homes on green belt land and revealed a cross-departmental government taskforce has been set up to facilitate the construction of new homes.
In a speech to the National House Building Council today, Sajid Javid said where councils were “willing to take the tough decisions” he would “back them all the way”, provided they have “sensible, robust local plans”.
CN’s sister title LGC revealed last month how the amount of green belt land has increased marginally over the past 10 years with most councils protecting their area. The finding emerged after Mr Javid used his Conservative party conference speech to urge councillors and MPs to take “unpopular” decisions to meet the government’s ambition of building one million homes by 2020.
In his speech today Mr Javid referenced Birmingham City Council’s local plan, which proposes to remove some of the city’s green belt land to meet housing demand.
Mr Javid said: “Where local councils come forward with sensible, robust local plans – and are willing to take the tough decisions – I will back them all the way.
“For example, Birmingham City Council has put forward a plan to meet some of its local housing need by removing green belt designation from a small area of land.
“The plan is supported by the independent Planning Inspectorate.
“But it’s fundamentally a local decision made by local people. They’ve looked at all the options. They’ve considered all the implications. They want to build homes for their children and grandchildren.
“And Westminster politicians should not stand in the way of that. That’s why, earlier today, we lifted the central government hold on the Birmingham local plan.”
Mr Javid’s words could bode well for Bradford City MDC’s local plan, approved by the Planning Inspectorate, which has been called in by ministers after a local Conservative MP objected to proposals to release some green belt land for development.
While Mr Javid praised his predecessors Greg Clark and Sir Eric Pickles, as well as former housing minister Brandon Lewis, for their work on attempting to tackle the housing crisis, he said “successive governments” since the 1960s had “just not done enough” on this issue.
Mr Javid said: “I’m not afraid to say that part of the problem is at my end, in central government.”
Ensuring the right infrastructure is in place to enable developments to be built was “absolutely vital” he added. “The trouble is, at the central government end, that’s covered by at least five different departments: Transport, Business and Energy, Education, Health, and Culture.”
In addition to that, the Ministry of Defence is the largest public sector land owner, while housing benefit falls under the remit of the Department for Work & Pensions, Mr Javid added.
As a result a “cross-government taskforce” joining up a central government departments has been set up, and is led by the prime minister, the communities secretary said.
“We can only deliver housing on the scale that’s needed and at the speed that’s required if every department does its bit, pulls its weight and recognises the importance of tackling this challenge.”
The taskforce met for the first time earlier this month, he said but added it would “take time” for changes to happen.
“It’s a bit like turning around an oil tanker,” Mr Javid said.