No10 slaps down Gove after he suggests Tory manifesto pledge to build 300,000 homes a year has been DITCHED – amid plans to let communities BLOCK new housing developments but approve extensions through ‘street votes’

  • Developments would go ahead as long as there was a 2/3 super majority to give communities more say
  • Michael Gove says more extensions and conservatories will go up without need for full planning permission
  • He’s also pledged to force developers to spend more on roads, schools and GP surgeries if estates go ahead
  • But he admitted that the Government would not meet its target to build 300,000 new homes a year this year
  • Local votes plan is a U-turn after ministers first proposed ‘renewal zones’ in which permission to build some homes would be granted automatically

No10 slapped down Michael Gove today after he suggested the Tories had dropped a manifesto pledge to build 300,000 new homes each year by 2025.

Downing Street contradicted the Cabinet minister after he played down the target – admitting it could be out of reach because a planning shake-up has been watered down to appease angry Tory voters in the shires.

Mr Gove said local referendums would give communities more say on developments and make sure ‘beautiful’ homes are ‘built in the right place’, rather than ‘shoddy’ properties in the wrong areas. 

But he acknowledged that the Government would make it almost impossible to hit the goal over the coming years.

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill has also come under fire for moves to allow ‘street votes’ to approve loft conversions, conservatories and extensionswithout full planning permission. 

Critics have warned it is a recipe for disharmony and likely to lead to more neighbours at war.

Asked if the target had been abandoned, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘Our target to deliver 300,000-a-year is central to our levelling up mission.

‘Those homes need to be good quality, they need to be well-designed and come with the infrastructure that new development needs. That is equally important.

‘We’re certainly making progress towards that target. We are at 244,000-a-year currently. Some of the measures in this bill are designed to remove some of the barriers that can gum up planning applications and cause more resistance amongst local communities.’

Countryside advocates have long warned that villages across swathes of southern England are becoming part of a wider sprawl from towns with profit-hungry developers building on green belt land to reduce their costs. 

The new street votes policy has been branded a gimmick designed to win over disenchanted Tory voters because fewer homes in rural areas will get built if there is a poll, but Conservative loyalists say it will ‘mean local residents can’t have unwanted development thrust down their throats’.  

Michael Gove, pictured today, has announced planning reforms that will allow locals to vote on developments and make it easier to get conservatories and extensions built. But he will also promise more cash for communities for schools and GP surgeries if they agree new developments


Boris Johnson has been warned of a ballot box backlash amid anger that English villages are being ‘swallowed up’ by sprawling towns. Among the areas that has experienced huge recent change is Bicester in Oxfordshire (pictured), where the population could double to 50,000 in the next 20 years if 13,000 planned homes are built in the designated ‘garden town’. The map shows how ‘urban sprawl’ has already changed the face of the former market town over the past decade – and seen it encroach on surrounding villages, practically swallowing them up as it expands 


MILTON KEYNES AND BLETCHLEY: Buckinghamshire in 2000 (left) and 2021 (right) – with the scale of development revealing how countryside around the likes of Upper Weald (in the west) and Broughton (in the north east) is disappearing

As well as ‘Street Votes’ on planning applications, the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill also promises:

  • In return for permission for housing developments, developers will have to pay a ‘non-negotiable levy’ to deliver the infrastructure that communities need, such as housing, schools, GPs and new roads. Ministers believe this will raise far more than the £7billion already raised each year from Section 106 agreements;
  • As well as voting on planning applications, residents will have more of a say over changing street names to stop local heritage being wiped out by woke campaign groups. But some think more votes will mean more historic names linked to Britain’s past could be wiped out;
  • The planning system will be fully digitised to make local plans easier to find and engage with;
  • Landlords will have to rent shops out to the highest bidder if they have been vacant for over a year;
  • Pavement licences that allowed more pubs and restaurants to serve food and drink outside during lockdowns will be made permanent; 

Planning row threatens to split the Tories as Boris struggles to please both Red Wall MPs and Shire Conservatives

Planning policy has emerged as one of the biggest dividing lines in Boris Johnson’s Tories.

The PM’s success in winning a slew of Red Wall constituencies delivered him a huge 80-strong majority at the last general election.

But it has also left him struggling to please MPs who represent very different groups of voters.

Demand for housing has been outstripping supply for decades, pricing out many younger people.

Newly-Tory seats are often keen for more development as part of the ‘Levelling Up’ drive. 

By contrast, Shire Conservatives have been getting endless earache from their constituents who do not want more houses built near them.

The backlash has been blamed for the Lib Dems’ increasing threat in the so-called ‘Blue Wall’ – where they have regained the pre-coalition mantle of a lightning rod for protest votes.    

Former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick was handed the poisoned chalice of balancing the government’s policy – proposing the real liberalisation of planning rules that Tory ministers had long been paying lip service to. 

However, he paid the price as senior MPs such as Theresa May and Andrew Mitchell spearheaded a revolt.

He was sacked and replaced by Michael Gove last year, leaving the party’s resident Svengali to try to square the circle.

He has attempted to do so by ditching the most extreme parts of the free-for-all, and introducing democratic elements such as communities being able to veto developments and streets voting on neighbours’ projects.

But it remains a high wire act and some MPs will be uncomfortable at the idea of the manifesto commitment to build 300,000 homes a year essentially disappearing out of reach.  

Ministers had proposed ‘renewal zones’ in which permission to build some homes would be granted automatically, stripping residents of the right to object. But it caused uproar and was axed last year amid significant Conservative resistance and concerns it would cause the Tories to lose rural votes by the wheelbarrow-load. 

Planning policy has emerged as one of the biggest battle ground among Boris Johnson’s Tories. Newly-Tory seats carved out of the northern Red Wall of traditional Labour areas have been keen for more development as part of the ‘Levelling Up’ drive. By contrast, Shire Conservative MPs fear they will be voted out because constituents do not want more houses built near them.

In an interview with Mishal Husain on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme Mr Gove was pressed on whether he thought it was right he was ripping up the 300,000 homes target in the Conservative party’s 2019 manifesto that won Boris Johnson an 80-seat majority.  

He said: ‘We’re going to do everything we can in order to ensure that more of the right homes are built in the right way in the right places. Because I don’t want us to be tied to a Procrustean bed. I think it’s critically important that, even as we seek to improve housing supply, we also seek to build communities that people love and are proud of.’

The Government also plans to raid more of developers’ ‘astronomical profits’ to pay for more schools, roads and GP surgeries as an incentive if locals agree to more new houses in their areas. Residents will also be allowed to decide rules governing the layout and materials used for new developments in new ‘local design codes’.

The Street Votes scheme announced in the Queen’s Speech goes a step further in giving communities a say, with new housing developments being blocked if a two-thirds ‘super-majority’ of residents do not agree to support a plan.

‘Communities have been understandably resistant because new buildings haven’t been beautiful, they haven’t been built with the quality required. Communities have been resistant because the infrastructure that they need – the GP surgeries, the new primary schools, the roads – haven’t come with those houses’, Mr Gove told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

‘People are resistant to development because the environment hasn’t been protected and enhanced in the way that it should be and people have been resistant to development because too often you have simply had numbers plonked down simply in order to reach an arbitrary target. You have had dormitories not neighbourhoods.

‘People, when it comes to housing development, should be partners. We are going to do everything we can in order to ensure that more of the right homes are built in the right way in the right places.

‘I think it is critically important that even as we seek to improve housing supply you also seek to build communities that people love and are proud of.’

Mr Gove said measures in the Queen’s Speech to give the public greater involvement in the planning process will build support for new housing developments.

He said: ‘We will make sure that through local democratic ballots, sometimes street by street, we can have the enhancement that we need to see the additional homes being built. In a way that leads to what the experts call ‘gentle densification’, but what you or I would just recognise as simply building in tune with what’s already there’.

Yesterday Robert Jenrick, Mr Gove’s predecessor as housing secretary, predicted the government would miss its target of 300,000 new homes a year ‘by a country mile’. 

Labour MP Angela Eagle tweeted: ‘Another piece of their manifesto ripped up’. 

Michael Gove: There will be no emergency budget to tackle the cost of living crisis

Michael Gove has ruled out an emergency budget, as he insisted Boris Johnson’s suggestion of more help to ease the cost-of-living crisis was ‘overinterpreted’.

The Levelling Up Secretary said on Wednesday that claims of a split between Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the Prime Minister over the need for more financial support were ‘overinflated’.

Under fire for failing to use the Queen’s Speech to announce fresh help, Mr Johnson suggested he and Mr Sunak would announce more ‘in the days to come’.

But the Treasury quickly shot down this suggestion, while No 10 conceded more support should not be expected in the ‘next few days’.

Mr Gove told Sky News: ‘There won’t be an emergency budget. It is sometimes the case that the words from a prime minister or minister are overinterpreted.

‘The Prime Minister is right. We will be saying more and doing more in order to help people with the cost-of-living challenge we face at the moment, but that doesn’t amount to an emergency budget. It is part of the work of government.

‘Last night the Prime Minister convened a group of ministers – we have all done work on some of the things we could do to help. Those policy initiatives will be announced by individual departments in due course as they are worked up.’

The Conservative leadership are worried that they cannot win the next election, or boost the economy, if they don’t build more homes and allow more opportunities for young people to get on the housing ladder. 

Tory MP John Penrose, who has campaigned for new housing policies, said the plans including street votes ‘mean local residents can’t have unwanted development thrust down their throats, but can allow development that make homes affordable for their children and are right for their area’.

One critic said: ‘Mr Gove is deluded. It would be horrendous and cause huge arguments with neighbours as people don’t like building work near to them’, while one woman speaking from experience said street votes are a ‘ridiculous idea’, adding: ‘We had all kinds of nonsense on our planning applications purely because neighbours were jealous’.

Another tweeted: ‘Gove’s plan to allow neighbours to veto each other’s extensions sounds like a recipe for disaster. Are they seriously suggesting that asking your neighbours if they mind you building a new bedroom/converting a garage is a good substitute for going through local planning consent?’ While one homeowner tweeted sarcastically afterwards: ‘Well that’s a recipe for harmony’. 

Responding to the criticism he said: ‘Well, we’ll do everything we can but it’s no kind of success simply to hit a target if the homes that are built are shoddy, in the wrong place, don’t have the infrastructure required and are not contributing to beautiful communities’.

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill aims to take power out of the hands of developers and councils and give it to homeowners.

It will mean people will be able to decide if they want more development on brownfield sites in their local areas.

The layout of new developments, the facades of buildings or the materials to be used would also be decided by locals.

They will also be able to determine how levies on developers are spent so they can be directed towards building new homes or schools.

Any development would have to be in keeping with the design styles favoured locally, and strict limits will prevent development from impacting neighbouring streets.

Ministers hope the scheme could lead to a ‘Victorian Renaissance’ in development, allowing streets of semi-detached houses gradually to evolve into terraced streets.

It is thought this could have a particularly transformative impact in places like Birmingham, Manchester, and London.

Housing secretary Michael Gove said that this could lead to ‘gentle densification’ of areas, with incentives for homeowners to vote for development.

Developers will also be charged a locally set, non-negotiable levy which residents can then determine how to spend.

It could be directed at local infrastructure such as housing, schools, GPs and new roads.

Ministers pledge to cut bureaucracy and red tape and digitise the planning system, as well as enhancing the power of communities to protect areas from development.

Small builders will be put on a ‘level playing field’ with bigger developers by exempting them from certain planning fees and creating a new category just for them.

It comes after the Government was forced to pull planning laws which infuriated Tories in their traditional heartlands over fears of more development.

New environmental impact assessments will also be introduced which will replace EU ones.

The percentage of brownfield area being developed into houses (top) and then green belt land being developed (bottom). Profit-hungry developers are accused of building on green belt land to reduce their costs

This graphic shows some housing developments in Bicester which are now being built and pushing the town closer to villages

The new development of Hawkwell will sit between Bicester and the picturesque village of 260 people, Bucknell. The  village,  pictured on the far left, would be essentially connected to the nearby town of Bicester, right, by the proposals. The ‘Stop Hawkwell’ group has been set up to oppose the development 

Residents of the Oxfordshire village of Bucknell are up in arms about the development which will see 3,100 new homes built

One of the many constructions going up in Bicester at the moment which has seen a surge in housing in recent years

The Bill will also enable every county in England to apply for devolution by handing more power to local leaders by 2030.

The Government also will introduce legislation to protect private renters and abolish so-called no-fault evictions – making good on its manifesto promise.

The Renters Reform Bill will provide security for tenants in the private rented sector by ending Section 21 notices, which allow landlords to evict a tenant without having to give a reason.

It will also ‘strengthen landlords’ rights of possession’, therefore providing a ‘fair and effective’ market for tenants and landlords, the Government said.

Landlords will have to make shops that have been vacant for more than a year available to prospective tenants under plans to revitalise struggling town centres.

Unlocking new powers for local authorities to bring empty premises back into use and instigate rental auctions of vacant commercial properties in town centres and on high streets has been included in the Queen’s Speech.

Other measures include the ability to make the pavement cafes which sprang up during the Covid-19 pandemic a permanent part of the town centre landscape. Under the Levelling up and Regeneration Bill measures to revive England’s high streets, councils will be given powers to take control of buildings for the benefit of their communities.

Bizarre moment Michael Gove adopts Scouse accent to tell people to ‘calm down’ as he rules out an emergency budget to help with the cost-of-living crisis

Michael Gove gave television viewers his best Scouse accent today as he told people to ‘calm down’ about the cost of living crisis – and ruled out an emergency Budget to provide more help to struggling families.

The Levelling-Up Secretary also dropped a sort of American accent in a lively display on television this morning as he sought to play down confusion sown by Boris Johnson yesterday. 

The Prime Minister, in his response to the Queen’s Speech, warned there were limits on how much public money he was prepared to commit, but told MPs: ‘The Chancellor and I will be saying more about this in the days to come.’

It sparked immediate speculation of a new fiscal intervention by the Treasury, but both it and No10 were quick to rule out an imminent special announcement. 

Labour has demanded an emergency budget saying that swift action is needed with inflation expected to hit 10 per cent by October off the back of rising household bills and food costs. 

But in an energetic early-morning BBC Breakfast interview today, Mr Gove accused journalists of over-interpreting the PM’s remarks.  

‘It is an example of some commentators chasing their own tails and trying to take a statement that is common sensical, turning it into a major, capital letters, big news story,’ he said. 

‘And in fact, when the Treasury quite rightly say, calm down, people instead of recognising that they have over-inflated the story in the first place, then say ”oh, this is clearly a split”.

The Scousers sketch revolved around three Liverpudlians in tracksuits, with two breaking into arguments and the third telling them to ‘calm down, calm down’.

‘The truth is the Prime Minister says ”Government is working hard” and the Treasury say ”Yes we are and I’m afraid the Budget is going to be when we said it would be”. That becomes a story? No.’ 

The phrase ‘calm down’ was a staple of Harry Enfield’s ‘Scousers’ characters in the 1990s. The sketch revolved around three Liverpudlians in tracksuits, with two breaking into arguments and the third telling them to ‘calm down, calm down’. 

Mr Gove later – more calmly –  told Sky News: ‘There won’t be an emergency budget. It is sometimes the case that the words from a prime minister or minister are overinterpreted.

‘The Prime Minister is right. We will be saying more and doing more in order to help people with the cost-of-living challenge we face at the moment, but that doesn’t amount to an emergency budget. It is part of the work of government.

‘Last night the Prime Minister convened a group of ministers – we have all done work on some of the things we could do to help. Those policy initiatives will be announced by individual departments in due course as they are worked up.’

Accused of ‘doing nothing’ for families as he defended the new legislative agenda, the PM set hares running yesterday by insisting he and the Chancellor would have ‘more to say’ on the squeeze ‘in the days to come’.

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