Government to Placate Nimby MPs by Watering Down Housing Targets


Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove are considering watering down their flagship planning bill in an attempt to head off a growing Tory revolt, rebels have claimed.

Downing Street officials, along with the Levelling Up Secretary and ministers have held a series of discussions with planning rebels in an attempt to reach a compromise, The Telegraph understands.

“The Government is making an effort to find where there is common ground,” a source involved in the discussions said. “There is no agreement yet, everyone is proceeding with caution.”

Last week, Rishi Sunak was forced to delay long-awaited planning reforms after dozens of Tory MPs threatened to rebel.

The Prime Minister was facing the first major test of his authority when MPs were set to vote on his plans for mandatory, centrally-set targets to build 300,000 homes a year.

But initially a group of 50 Conservative MPs – including eight former cabinet ministers – signed an amendment to the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill that would have abolished the targets.

On Sunday night, rebel leaders said that the number of signatories has now risen to 56, as they claim that several more MPs have indicated they would be willing to vote for the amendment when it came to the House of Commons.

Possible areas of compromise include the Government agreeing to greater flexibility on house-building targets, and finding legal routes to making sure developers prioritise building on brownfield sites.

Theresa Villiers, a former cabinet minister who is leading the planning revolt, said: “We have had many meetings with Michael Gove and various housing ministers who have expressed public sympathy with our point of view. No doubt conversations will continue. There is a problem that needs to be resolved.”

Labour had already said it would not be supporting the rebel amendment – meaning there was no chance of the Government being defeated. But a vote would have been a huge test of the Prime Minister’s authority just a month after he took office.

The MPs who have signed the amendment – “new clause 21” – are from all wings of the party.

As well as Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Ms Villiers, former cabinet ministers include John Redwood, Dame Maria Miller, Damian Green, Chris Grayling, Priti Patel and Esther McVey.

The amendment would have meant that house-building targets “may only be advisory and not mandatory” and so “accordingly such targets should not be taken into account in determining planning applications”.

A source close to Mr Gove declined to comment on the nature of the discussions with rebels but said he “wants to work constructively with colleagues”. 

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