Housing secretary and London mayor continue battle over housing 

Michael Gove has told Sadiq Khan to review his London Plan on the same day the mayor announced proposals to double levels of council house building by 2030. 

The housing secretary’s intervention is the latest move in a protracted battle over housing policy with the Mayor of London, who is up for re-election this spring for an unprecedented third term. 


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Sadiq Khan is facing increasing pressure from central government over his record on housebuilding in the capital

It comes after a review commissioned by Gove found that the complexity of policies in the London Plan was creating viability challenges for developers and frustrating the delivery of new homes, particularly on brownfield sites.  

Khan has called that review a “desperate political stunt” and appeared alongside Labour leader Keir Starmer this morning (Monday) to launch his election campaign with a pledge to deliver 40,000 new council homes in the city by the end of the decade. 

The figure is double his previous target, which he met last year. 

But while Khan was setting out his stall for the election, Gove’s letter from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) was hitting his desk in City Hall. 

In it, Gove said his own changes to national policy on brownfield development would not be sufficient to reverse the “chronic under-delivery” he alleged had taken place under the mayor’s time in office which began in 2016. 

He invoked his powers under Section 340 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 to direct the mayor to conduct a partial review to examine whether existing policy is holding back development. 

According to the government, the rate of delivery needs to increase from an average of 37,200 homes each year to 62,300 to meet targets set out in the plan.  

The Greater London Authority has been asked to report back its findings and to focus on two specific areas – industrial land and opportunity areas. 

According to the government, 736ha of industrial land in the capital could be turned into housing but is stuck in a planning system that Gove believes is too restrictive. 

DLUHC has also asked the mayor to ensure 47 areas identified as having the potential to deliver at least 2,500 new homes – so-called “opportunity areas” – are sufficiently targeted and to consider whether there is a role for a single planning framework to accelerate housing.  

In the meantime, the boroughs of Newham and Greenwich will be given support by a specialist team of planners which the government has created to work on complex cases held up in the planning system. 

>> Gove and Khan’s row over London’s housing delivery numbers explained

DLUHC has put aside £500,000 to help the two local authorities unlock more than 7,000 homes. 

Earlier this year, the government announced £50m to regenerate London estates, £4m, for housing delivery around Euston station and £125m to unlock three major brownfield sites in London. 

Gove said that Londoners were being “let down” by the mayor and said action already taken would help reverse this trend. 

“However, that alone will not build the homes we need, which is why I am now directing the mayor to review aspects of the London Plan and announcing specialist support on planning to help unlock thousands of homes,” he said. 

“I look forward to continuing to work with the Greater London Authority, councils and the sector so we can get spades in the ground and deliver the homes the capital needs.”  

Khan said he had “got London building again” as mayor and claimed that overall housing completions had recently hit their highest level since the 1930s, with council home building rates higher than at any time since the 1970s. 

“This includes starting twice as many council homes as the rest of the country combined last year,” he said. 

“We’re building council housing at 10 times the rate of my Tory predecessor [Boris Johnson], and affordable housing at treble the level it was when I first became mayor. 

“But while we’ve been stepping up and hitting our housing targets, the Tories have been letting us down and missing theirs.   

“At every turn, they have shown themselves to be blockers, not builders… more interested in stoking culture wars than supplying quality housing.”