Changes to housebuilding target will protect green belt, says MP

Tory MPs have backed new plans to give local councils greater control over housebuilding targets in a move they say will protect the green belt.

The target of 300,000 homes a year will now be 'advisory', Michael Gove has said
The target of 300,000 homes a year will now be 'advisory', Michael Gove has said

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has confirmed the long-standing target to build 300,000 homes a year would not be enforced following a backlash from Tory MPs.

In a major shake up of government housing policy he has pledged the target will instead be a "starting point" and should now be considered "advisory".

Top down housing targets have long been a source of contention among Tory MPs, with some arguing it gave local authorities no choice but to put forward green belt land for development.

The issue has been particularly controversial in this region, where the Black Country Plan – which lined up thousands of homes for green sites and also impacted Staffordshire – collapsed after Dudley Council pulled out.

Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant said the decision would prevent parts of the Midlands from being "ruined by excessive home building".

"These new rules will mean that local councils will be allowed to build fewer homes than Whitehall believes are needed if they can show that hitting the targets would significantly change the character of an area," he said.

"With major house building already underway to the south of Lichfield and more to come, I am relieved that more cannot be imposed by Whitehall mandarins.

“Lichfield is a beautiful city but runs the risk – like so many other towns and cities in the Midlands – of being ruined by excessive home building and consequent concreting over green fields.

"Excessive house building on green field sites will kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. I’m all for building on redundant industrial land – so called brownfield sites – but ancient cities like Lichfield have very few such locations.

"It is right that central government should offer local councils incentives to build new homes, but it must be up to local councils to decide where to build them and how many and to avoid being too greedy.

"This is a fine balance which local representatives, our councillors, are best placed to make a judgement."

Mr Gove's announcement comes after a Commons vote on the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill last month was dropped after 60 Conservative MPs signed an amendment calling for the mandatory target to be scrapped.

Labour has warned any reduction of the target would make it harder for people to get on the housing ladder.

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