In the next few weeks, the government will publish planning reforms designed to simplify the system and free up land for development, I report in the magazine this week. It is by far the government’s most significant supply-side reform. One of those involved says ‘this is what the Thatcher government should have done but didn’t’.
The plans would see the UK move to a zonal development system. In certain land classes, building would be actively encouraged, with a presumption in favour of development. The Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has pushed aesthetic standards, influenced by the work of the late Roger Scruton, which he believes will ensure new homes are more attractive so garner greater local support.
Given this government has already backed away from plans to ease Sunday trading laws in the face of parliamentary opposition, it is easy to wonder if it will do the same here. Tory opposition to planning reform is less than it once was, but there are still many Tories uncomfortable with more building on their patch. The current economic emergency should give this reform sufficient momentum and, crucially, this — unlike the coalition’s effort — is an attempt to revive the housing market through supply-side, not demand-led, reform.