On Thursday morning there was a Parliamentary debate under the title “Planning for the Future“. The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government is Robert Jenrick and he began by making a statement which included the following words “Local authorities need to play their part through their local plans. Today, I am setting a deadline of December 2023 for all local plans to be in place, before the Government will have to intervene.” It seemed reminiscent of a call I had been aware of before now, but I was not certain of its previous version until John Healey responded. He explained “The Secretary of State has a number of questions on the planning front. In 2015, the Government set a deadline of early 2017 for all councils to have a local plan in place. Why is he now waiting another three years until the end of 2023?”
Sadly Robert Jenrick ignored this entirely when he responded to John, he did make a criticism of John stating “The right hon. Gentleman left house building in this country at the lowest level since the 1920s when he was the Housing Secretary…. so I will take no lectures from him on our record.” which is perfectly reasonable as a criticism of the Labour Party but it ignores the question and indeed John Healey was only Housing Minister from 5th June 2009 to the point at which the 2010 election took place. Now Robert has only been Housing Minister since July 2019 so he cannot be blamed for the failure to sort out the early 2017 deadline in terms of the department decision although he has been a Government Minister since January 2018. However given that he was an MP from 2014 and that in 2015 his party told local authorities to get things sortd by early 2017 and he as the Minister is now giving them until December 2023, which in effect extends the period from mid 2015 of 18 months to 102 months. This seems to demand an explanation for those of us who are not involved in any particular party even if Jenrick is unwilling to answer his opposition MP!
If someone can manage to get a response from him, perhaps they could also point out that part of his statement “I am announcing that we will review the formula for calculating local housing needs taking a fresh approach that means building more homes, but also encouraging greater building in urban areas” has the tendency to deny growth in areas such as villages and rural towns which may not need such large scale developments, but do need meaningful growth or else they become less sustainable as places for families to remain in. It is vital that we get a comprehensive response from the Government.