The housing secretary tells MPs councils that have built over their assessed need won’t need to build more 

Housing secretary Michael Gove has told a group of MPs that the government’s housing target should be met by building more homes on urban and brownfield sites. 

michael gove at select committee 21 nov 2022

Michael Gove gives evidence at Levelling Up committee on 21 November

Answering a question from Tory MP Paul Holmes on how he was going to try to achieve the 300,000 a year homes target, he said there had been a “live debate” and a “useful one on how numbers are generated”, and how housing need is assessed. 

But, he told the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities committee: “My own view is that whatever figures you arrive at nationally, and how it’s broken down authority by authority, a greater proportion of housing need should be met in urban areas and on brownfield sites.”

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He added: “Many of our cities are significantly less dense than their counterparts elsewhere and that is bad for everything from transport to economic growth.” 

Gove added that the 300,000-home goal was a “manifesto ambition”. Gove recommitted to 2019 manifesto target in a BBC interview last month. 

His comments will add fuel to speculation that Gove is likely to shift the way local housing need is calculated in a way that sees higher housing numbers in towns and cities and in more deprived areas, and less in rural parts of the country. Gove is under pressure from Conservative backbenchers to drop housing targets entirely, with Conservative MP Theresa Villiers having secured the backing of 46 backbenchers for amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill designed to scrap housing targets entirely.

Gove also told MPs he wanted to stop developers building on land not identified in a local plan. “In plan-making we should have a system whereby once a plan has been adopted, a community can feel confident that you don’t get speculative development undermining the commitment to local democratic control,” the secretary of state told the committee.

He also promised that local authorities that had exceeded their assessed number of homes required would not be required to build more. 

Tory MP Paul Holmes said the 300,000 homes a year in England goal makes the “blood drain” from many faces in local communities. 

He asked: “If a local authority over the past five or seven years has built more than the assessed need required, would a future formula under your stewardship recognise that and align some future formula to reducing the number of houses required locally?”

Gove replied: “Yes. That’s what we propose to do.”

The secretary of state said it would be recognised where there was “a robust plan in place and a clear pipeline, [and where] the local authority is not held to be in breach of the five-year land supply requirement”.

During his leadership campaign in the summer, now prime minister Rishi Sunak distanced himself from the 300,000 a year pledge. His campaign team also told Housing Today he was “squarely brownfield focused and favours ambitious reforms to increase density in our inner-cities, investing in regenerating brownfield land across the country.”