Theresa Villiers claimed “overdevelopment” has been growing steadily in recent years 

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Conservative MP Theresa Villiers has vowed to table amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill to abolish housing targets set by Westminster. 

The Chipping Barnet MP told a parliamentary reception last week that she was planning to table amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill report stage to abolish centrally-set targets for housing delivery, because the pressure for inappropriate and unsustainable development had grown over recent years. 

Villiers wrote in a blog for Conservative Home, published yesterday, that with the bill about to enter the report state there was an “immediate opportunity” to tackle “grave concerns expressed on the backbenches about the impact of excessively high housing targets”.

She said new prime minister Rishi Sunak had distanced himself from local targets and the Tory manifesto pledge to build 300,000 new homes in England every year when he told Housing Today during the summer leadership contest that he did not believe in “arbitrary top-down numbers”.  However, housing secretary Michael Gove appeared to recommit to the target despite this in an interview with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssbert last month. 

theresa villiers

Tory MP Theresa Villiers wants to see centrally set housing targets abolished

She said she hoped the government would be able to engage with the amendments, at a reception hosted by the Better Planning Coalition campaign group on Wednesday last week. Technically the government does not set housing targets for local authorities, but, via the Standard Method formula, it does calculate the housing need for each local authority, for which councils have to have a strong justification to depart from when setting their own housing targets.

Villiers call came as right-leaning think tank the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) released a report today saying that “removing [Westminster set housing targets] without developing credible alternatives could lead to a 20% fall in housebuilding, with some estimates as high as 40%.” Such a “slump could see as many as 800,000 job losses in construction and related sectors”, the CPS paper cautioned. Although, the paper acknowledges “top-down targets have been much resented”.   

Samuel Hughes, CPS head of housing, said: ‘Instead of scrapping top-down targets, the government should look at ways in which it can mitigate their inflexibility, as well as addressing other unpopular features of the housebuilding system.” 

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation (HBF), wrote to chair of the Office for Budget Responsibility last month, Richard Huges, when then prime minister Liz Truss was planning to get rid of centrally held housing targets. 

He warned the move could lead to housing delivery falling to 140,000 net additional homes a year - 100,000 fewer than the number of new homes the industry is on track to deliver this year, Baseley said.  

“Without clear targets in place, there is a considerable likelihood that Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) will significantly reduce the scale of housing allocations included in local plans,” the HBF boss explained.

Housing Today is calling for the government to recommit to the 300,000 homes a year target, pledged in the 2019 Conservative manifesto, with the right package to deliver it.