British Prime Minister Rishi Sonak faces his first major rebellion this week, as hundreds of Conservative MPs oppose the government’s housebuilding plans.
47 Tory rank and files backbenchers signed an amendment to Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill. This would prohibit local councils from imposing mandatory housebuilding targets. The bill will be returned to the House of Commons on Wednesday for debate, but it is unclear when or whether any amendments will go to vote. However, if Labour and the other opposition parties back rebels, the government (which has a working majority in 69) will be defeated.
Housebuilding and planning have been a source of contention within the Conservative Party. The party has a long history of dominating in rural areas. Concerned by a backlash from their heartlands, the rebels argue that local communities should be able to have more control over where homes are built.
Damian Green, one potential rebel, wrote Tuesday on the ConservativeHome website that “a central target cannot recognize different pressures within the country.” “National averages in house prices are meaningless in real life because the same house may be twice as expensive on the outskirts Sevenoaks than it is on the Sunderland outskirts. This is exactly why local decisions are needed, expressed in local plans about the amount of development that each area needs.
While the Tories had promised to build 300,000.00 new homes per year by 2020, attempts by Boris Johnson to establish a planning policy that would allow for a substantial increase in housebuilding fell apart amid divisions within his party. According to Office for National Statistics data, construction started on almost 206,000 additional dwellings in 2021-22.
Robert Colville (2019 Tory manifesto coauthor) criticized the rebel proposals, saying they would “enshrine nimbyism as the governing principal of British society.” NIMBY stands not in my backyard.
The bill’s proposed amendment is just one of many suggested by Theresa Villiers, former Environment Secretary. Others include making it harder for homes to be converted into holiday apartments, making it easier to encourage brownfield construction over greenfield and increasing penalties for developers who fail to construct once planning permission is granted.
Max Blain, Sunak’s spokesperson, said that Sunak is committed to the government’s goal of building 300,000.00 houses per year.
Blain said Tuesday that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities wanted to work constructively to build more houses in the right locations. Blain said the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Michael Gove, its secretary of state, are “very concentrated” on that.
However, the prime Minister said that his planning policy would include “brownfield”, brownfield and brownfield during this year’s Tory leadership contest, which he lost against Liz Truss. It suggests that he sympathizes with some rebel views.
He said that “Over the years we’ve seen many examples of local governments circumventing residents’ views by taking land from the greenbelt for development,” at the time.