Co-author of 2019 Conservative manifesto brands attempt to cut target “selfish and wicked”

Conservative MP Theresa Villiers has tabled promised amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill that would see both housing targets and the requirement for councils to demonstrate a five year supply of housing land abolished. 

theresa villiers

Her bid for the “prohibition of mandatory targets and abolition of [the] five-year land supply rule” is backed by 27 MPs, including well-known names such as Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Damian Green and Chris Grayling. 

But Robert Colvile, director of the right-wing Centre for Policy Studies and co-author of the 2019 Conservative manifesto that pledged to build 300,000 new homes a year in England, called the move “selfish and wicked”, in an article for the Sunday Times yesterday. 

He said in a Twitter thread yesterday the effect of the amendments from the “high-profile gang of Tory MPs” would be “cataclysmic” and “eviscerate the current planning system”. 

Chipping Barnet MP Theresa Villiers told a parliamentary reception at the start of the month she was planning to table the amendments, saying “overdevelopment” had been growing in recent years. 

Covile suggested the move would make it “unimaginably worse” for young people to get onto the housing ladder if central targets were scrapped because it would get rid of “two core policies that tell councils they have to build, and punish them for not doing so”. 

It would “enshrine nimbyism as the governing principle of British society [and] leave every proposed development at the mercy of the propertied and privileged”, Covile wrote in the Sunday Times. 

He pointed out in his Twitter thread councils have to “think again” if the housing targets they draw up, based on a standardised national formula, are not considered adequate, or if they fail to come up with a local plan. 

Colvile also said the system currently required local authorities to give planning permission “unless there is a good reason to say no”, on Twitter, and that there is a “requirement on councils to identify future land supply”. 

He believed Villiers’ amendments “deepens the recession” and “hammers GDP, employment and tax revenue - meaning we need more austerity”, on the social media platform. He added: “It slashes affordable housing since that’s funded by levies on private development”. 

The amendment to the bill, which returns to the House of Commons on Wednesday this week for the delayed report stage, calls for there to be no housebuilding targets for local authorities in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), through regulations made under any enactment or in any planning policy document. Any targets should be “advisory and not mandatory”, the amendment suggests. 

It also urges that “such targets should not be taken into account in determining planning applications”. 

Villiers also wants to end the current NPPF requirement that councils should identify enough sites for five years’ worth of housing supply “or any other given period”. 

The changes would demand the NPPF is revised within six months. 

The Government has tabled its own amendments to the bill, designed to stop housebuilders landbanking.