Housing algorithm ‘to be overhauled to prioritise building of urban homes’

New build homes
New build homes (PA Wire)
11:43am, Sun 15 Nov 2020
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The Government is reportedly planning to overhaul controversial planning system changes following criticism from senior Tories including former prime minister Theresa May.

The proposed algorithm aims to decide where to build 300,000 new homes by allocating an annual-house building target in each area of England based on demand, regional affordability and population growth.

It would have led to big increases in building in rural areas but was described as “ill-conceived” by Mrs May, who warned it “flies in the face” of the Conservatives’ levelling-up agenda.

The system is now being “rebalanced” to prioritise construction of homes in urban areas, The Sunday Telegraph reports.

Last month, Mrs May said she agreed more homes need to be built but called on the Government to “think again” as its proposed “algorithm does not guarantee this happening”.

Theresa May (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA) (PA Wire)

She told the Commons in October: “We need to build more homes, the Government is absolutely right about that.

“We need to level up across the country, the Government is right about that too.

“But the problem with these proposals, the problem with this algorithm on housing numbers, is that it doesn’t guarantee a single extra home being built and, far from levelling up, it forces more investment into London and the South.

“This is a mechanistic approach and it is ill-conceived.”

What this new algorithm does, as regards to levelling up, is flies in the face of the Government’s flagship policy

She was supported at the time by party colleague Bob Seely, whose backbench motion requesting the algorithm not be introduced until a debate and “meaningful” vote took place in the Commons was supported by MPs.

“What this new algorithm does, as regards to levelling up, is flies in the face of the Government’s flagship policy,” Mrs May said.

Tom Fyans, campaigns and policy director at countryside charity CPRE, said: “If the housing algorithm is being overhauled, this could be a major first step to create a locally-led planning system that provides the homes communities really need and protects and enhances our green spaces and countryside, so critical to our health and wellbeing.

“It is encouraging to see that ministers are in listening mode. But the problems with the government’s planning proposals do not end with this algorithm. The upheaval of planning would slash community voice in shaping local areas, result in half as many affordable homes delivered in the countryside and lead to unnecessary loss of locally-valued countryside and green spaces.’

“That’s why we’re urging the government to learn the lessons of lockdown and listen to local communities and their own backbench MPs. It’s time to create a planning system that balances action to tackle the climate and nature emergencies while delivering the homes local people need, at the pace we need them.”

An overhaul of the system would be the latest large shift in official policy this year following U-turns over a controversial exams algorithm, free school meals provision during holidays, visa charges for NHS staff, the reopening of schools after lockdown, remote voting by MPs, Huawei’s involvement in 5G and quarantine measures for travellers.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Telegraph has also reported Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick plans to relocate part of his ministry to Wolverhampton in the West Midlands in an attempt to move Government focus from England’s south.

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