Government 'rewriting rule book' to ensure councils meet home-building targets

Theresa May has insisted the Government wants to be "rewriting the rule book" on planning in a bid to solve Britain's housing crisis.

The Prime Minister acknowledged there is a "real problem" and a need to build more homes, with councils to be encouraged to develop plans for their area or face intervention.

An overhaul of planning laws will see the creation of new rules to give councils targets for how many homes they should build each year, taking into account local house prices, wages and the number of "key workers" such as nurses, teachers and police officers in the area.

Higher targets will be set for areas with higher "unaffordability ratios", Housing Secretary Sajid Javid has said.

UK construction figures
UK construction figures

If councils fail to deliver on the target, they will be stripped of planning powers with independent inspectors taking over.

The Prime Minister has made housing a key domestic priority as more young people struggle to get on the property ladder.

Mrs May told BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show: "We do have a real problem in this country. We need to build more homes.

"There are too many people in the UK today, particularly young people, who fear that they're never going to be able to own a place of their own.

"What I'm doing on Monday is setting out how we're rewriting the rule book in terms of planning, so we're saying to councils you've got to take local communities into account, you've got to ensure you've got a proper plan for your local area - if you don't have it, the Government will intervene.

"We're ensuring we won't see so much money spent on expensive consultants by setting the number of homes on a national framework, national calculation on the number of homes needed in each area.

"But also what we as government are also going to do is release more public sector land for homes and make sure actually as we do so, some of those homes are affordable for key people like nurses working in our public services."

Mr Javid also warned local authorities he would be "breathing down your neck every day and night" to ensure home-building targets are met.

Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid
Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid

He told the Sunday Times: "We have a housing crisis in this country.

"We need a housing revolution. The new rules will no longer allow nimby councils that don't really want to build the homes that their local community needs to fudge the numbers."

Mr Javid said homes would not be built on green belt but any area outside "naturally protected land" would be free for construction.

He also revealed plans to build new towns between Oxford and Cambridge.

"Along that corridor there's an opportunity to build at least four or five garden towns and villages with thousands of homes," he said.

And he said rules will be relaxed for homeowners who want to add storeys to their houses.

Shadow housing secretary John Healey
Shadow housing secretary John Healey

Responding to reports, Labour's shadow housing secretary John Healey said: "This year-old policy shows again that ministers have no proper plan to fix the housing crisis. Eight years of failure on housing is the fault of Whitehall, not town halls."

He added: "In the week he's surrendered £800 million of unspent housing funds to the Treasury, more buck-passing from Sajid Javid isn't going to cut it. It's time the Tories changed course, and backed Labour's long-term plan to build the homes the country needs."