Michael Gove and the PM announce a host of property pledges including protecting greenbelt and more homes on brownfield land and in cities

The Prime Minister and Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, have set out a raft of plans including regeneration of brownfield sites for housing and more homes in cities. This, they say, will help protect green field land from development.

Michael Gove announced the ambition to boost the regeneration and renaissance of English cities, adding there would be transformational change in central Leeds, Cambridge and central London. He and the PM gave a commitment to work with local partners in central Leeds, to regenerate the city centre and explore how a West Yorkshire mass transit system could open up the city to many more workers across the city’s burgeoning financial, digital and legal sectors.

The government says it will also speed up work in the centre of Leeds by identifying the remaining barriers to delivery for key housing growth sites within the city rim, including the South Bank, Innovation Arc, and local and neighbourhood plans while potentially delivering up to 20,000 new homes on these sites over the next decade. The government will also work with local authorities to adapt existing HS2 land safeguarded in Leeds City Centre and, where appropriate, supporting economic growth and housing delivery with additional revenue funding to support the goals.

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There will also be a new fund of £24 million to scale up local planning capacity and an additional £13.5 million to stand up a new “super-squad” of planning experts to support large scale development projects. Reforms to the planning system that will speed up new developments, put power in the hands of local communities to build their own homes, and unlock planning decisions, were also promised, along with an increase in the amount developers pay in planning fees to ensure all planning departments are better resourced.

Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government Michael Gove aSecretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government Michael Gove a
Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government Michael Gove a

The Prime Minister said his government would “not concrete over the countryside” and would instead “build the right homes where there is the most need and where there is local support, in the heart of Britain's great cities”. Michael Gove added that he planned to promote urban regeneration rather than “swallowing up virgin land” with reference made to using £800 million from the £1.5 billion Brownfield, Infrastructure and Land fund to remediate enough brownfield land for up to 56,000 new homes across England.

He also confirmed controversial plans for 6,000 new homes within a new city quarter in Northeast Cambridge. This would, if adopted, include schools, parks and new commercial space for the life science research sector.

As part of the new plan to construct more homes in England, Mr Gove also said he aimed to make it easier to convert redundant commercial property, including shops and takeaways, into homes, while also repurposing agricultural buildings. The government will also consult in Autumn on further measures on how to better support existing homeowners to extend their homes, while continuing to ensure that local removal of permitted development rights through Article 4 Directions will only be agreed where there is evidence of wholly unacceptable impacts

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Also promised is the establishment of the Office for Place in Stoke-on-Trent, a new body that will ensure that new homes are built according to a simple design code supported by local people. The Office for Place will support residents to demand what they find beautiful from developers, ensuring every local place is built to reflect the individual local character and beauty of every community across the country.

There will also be support for councils that want to deliver high quality and up-to-date local plans. There will also be consultation on how to simplify and speed up the system of making a Local Plan, which helps protect green space and heritage assets, among other things.

As for building safety, the government confirmed the intention to mandate second staircases in new residential buildings above 18m, following confirmation from expert bodies that they support this threshold. This is a considered and gradual evolution of safety standards but the government adds that this new regulation cannot jeopardise the supply of homes by disrupting schemes that have been planned for years.

Opening the Cladding Safety Scheme to all eligible buildings, ensuring that no leaseholder will be out of pocket to fix dangerous cladding in medium or high-rise buildings, was welcomed but “non-qualifying leaseholders”,who have apartments in buildings under 11 metres are still cast adrift with no funded remediation of unsafe homes affected by the cladding scandal.

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The Federation of Master Builders said that while the government’s 10 point for housing is a much-needed boost to help build more homes, new homes are needed in every village, town, and city and not just selected urban areas. Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB said: “A plan for more housing is very welcome and hopefully it will go some way to get housing numbers back on track.

"It’s positive to see a focus on brownfield sites which are the mainstay of SME house builders, but the planning system also needs to be fixed to ensure that these developments become a reality. Too many SME house builders are stuck in planning purgatory which stops the delivery of housing and employment opportunities in their communities.”

He added: “The recommitment to ‘building beautiful’ is positive. The FMB has consistently highlighted that it is the small, local house builders that are best placed to truly deliver on this ambition. They build quality, local homes that reflect their communities’ needs which is why the Government’s focus on urban areas needs to be balanced with the need to address housing shortages in our rural communities.”

Mark Manning, MD of Manning Stainton estate agents, says: “Michael Gove's speech unveiling the Government’s plans to unlock more brownfield sites is a commendable initiative for the housing market. By prioritising the regeneration of disused land, we can simultaneously address the pressing demand for housing while preserving our green spaces.

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“This strategy is long overdue and not only promotes sustainable urban growth but also revitalises neglected areas, fostering a sense of community and reducing urban sprawl. Building on brownfield sites encourages efficient land use and minimises the strain on infrastructure. It presents an opportunity to breathe new life into often forgotten spaces, unlocking their potential for much needed housing, ultimately creating vibrant, inclusive neighbourhoods for the benefit of our local communities.’

Nathan Emerson, CEO of Propertymark, the membership body for property agents, said: “The UK Government's commitment to building more homes is disappointing. In order to provide the homes the country needs, plans need to be more ambitious and Government must go faster and further to achieve this. Avoiding a fragmented approach is key, as well as having housing targets that are linked to tenure to meet the demand in different areas across the country. Housing reforms must also reflect societal change, help tackle the climate emergency, involve the tax system, meet the needs of older people and ultimately provide more affordable options, whilst protecting the green belt.

“Changes to the private rented sector in England have been long awaited and it is positive to hear that the UK Government is looking to ensure that good landlords and agents are supported in these proposals. The private rented sector is crucial to a well-functioning housing market so a whole-scale long-term plan involving tax reform and clarity on energy efficiency targets is needed to address the imbalance in high demand and low housing supply and incentivise investment for property agents and their landlords."

“It is encouraging to see that further leasehold law changes are on the cards as it’s imperative that the reforms reduce costs for consumers and create a level playing field with those who already own a leasehold property. Furthermore, we welcome the proposals for a new design code to improve the quality of new homes and the inclusion of new support to help first-time buyers onto the property ladder.

“The announcements from the Secretary of State are a step in the right direction, but we need action now across all regions to provide homes that the country needs.”