All the industry reaction to Michael Gove’s appointment as Housing Secretary 

The housing sector is reacting to the appointment of political heavyweight and reformer Michael Gove as secretary of state, with many urging him to provide clarity rapidly on critical proposed reforms to planning and housing.

Gove’s appointment came days after media reports suggested key elements of the government’s planning overhaul, including plans for mandatory local housing targets and a zonal system to classify land for development, could be dropped.

However, Gove’s past reputation as a reformer, notably in education policy, is likely to give fresh hope to those still hoping for a major overhaul.

In a joint statement, the National Federation of Builders (NFB) and House Builders association (HBA) said Gove would need to consider how to address the “many false narratives” around the government’s planning reforms.

Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing at the HBA, said: “He has entered a bit of a cauldron, but the Government’s excellent planning reforms were at the stage of requiring a layer of strategy to incorporate competing aims, such as agriculture, placemaking and archaeology so we are looking forward to working with him on that.”

Eddie Tuttle, director of policy, external affairs, and research at the Chartered institute of Building (CIOB) said: “It is vital that the industry receives clarity on the Planning Bill, and its relationship with the Fire Safety Act and Building Safety Bill; particularly in relation to the government’s position on permitted development rights, and ensuring they have strict quality controls should they press ahead as a key mechanism for housing delivery.”

Marc Vlessing, chief executive of developer Pocket Living, said a number of radical planning and housing reforms are “currently held in stasis due to significant resistance from within a governing party unconvinced by the manner and need for change.”

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He said: “Yet this is not the time to be timid or seek to reverse away from the fundamental issue the reforms seek to address. The UK’s housing market is dysfunctional and real change is needed”

Victoria Hills, chief executive of the Royal Town Planning Institute, said: “The planning profession eagerly awaits details of reforms that will be introduced and stands ready to support Mr Gove so that he can hit the ground running on such a significant policy issue. Planners are vital in designing healthy and sustainable communities fit to face the challenges of the future and could play an instrumental role in helping to level up the entire country and deliver on net zero commitments.”

Other figures urged the government to ensure plans for housing remain at the centre of the ‘levelling up’ and pandemic recovery agendas.

Nicholas Harris, chief executive of 33,600-home housing association Stonewater, said the appointment of such a heavyweight politician, “should underline the Government’s ongoing commitment to placing housing as a priority.”

He said: “With housing being such a critical part of the Government’s levelling up agenda, it’s imperative to have continuity of focus on the promise to ‘Build Back Better’ and the implementation of the social housing white paper.”

In a short tweet, the National Housing Federation said: “We look forward to working with you and your team on the key challenges and opportunities facing the housing association sector: building safety, sustainability; housing supply and quality.”

Bjorn Howard, chief executive of 32,500-home housing association Aster Group, urged Gove “not to radically alter the course” of housing policy.

He said: “The government’s housing plan sets out a clear focus on delivering choice. Recognising the importance of shared ownership and investing in rural social housing infrastructure are great positives of the current strategy.

“I hope the housing secretary’s expanded remit, covering the levelling up agenda, will give him a more holistic view that sees the value of giving communities a say in the delivery the housing and other support they need.” 

James Jamieson, chair of the Local Government Association, said: “The COVID crisis has shown what can be achieved when government empowers councils to innovate and create new services locally. We look forward to working with Michael Gove as our new Secretary of State at MHCLG to build on this and ensure councils are backed with the resources and freedoms they need to build back local from the pandemic, level up communities and deliver more for our residents and communities.”