On Tuesday Michael Gove told MPs the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill will be changed to abolish mandatory housebuilding targets.
Wealden District Council and Nusrat Ghani MP have been lobbying Government for the last few years about the issue.
Despite reaffirming its commitment to deliver 300,000 homes a year as recently as October, the Government will now make significant changes as the Bill progresses through Parliament amid mounting pressure from backbench Conservative MPs.
The Government consultation on the proposed changes is due to be published before the end of the year. Wealden District Council have said they are ‘keen to see the finer detail of the proposals and engage fully with the consultation’.
Under the proposals, housing targets set for local authorities will remain but will be a starting point instead with new flexibilities to reflect local circumstances such as national parks, heritage restrictions, and areas of high flood risk; local planning authorities will be able to tackle slow build out by developers; and there could be new financial penalties for companies failing to deliver housing despite having planning approval and give councils power to refuse further permissions across their areas.
In July, Wealden District Council said it would delay publishing its new Local Plan because there was way too much uncertainty.
Following the publication of the Government consultation, Wealden District Council have said it will set-out an updated timetable. However it needs to be remembered that council elections will be held in May next year, which might have implications for when they choose to hold the consultation.
Wealden District Council leader and Portfolio Holder for Planning, Councillor Ann Newton said,
The Local Plan is an important document and we want to progress it as quickly as possible to provide certainty to our communities, partners and developers on the future planning strategy for the district.
However, following our successful lobbying efforts we will be working over the coming months to build these changes into our draft Local Plan, with the central aim of protecting the natural beauty and character of our district and meeting our climate change commitments.Cllr Newton
Fine words but will wait and see if action on reducing number of new houses. Far too often it gets put to one side.