Boris and the Big Climb Down


In our August newsletter, we advised that the government intended to overhaul the UK’s planning system with the intention of creating 300,000 new homes every year.

Under the plans, the number of houses due to be built in the southeast would increase by 57% to 61,000 and by 41% in the southwest. The northeast, northwest, Yorkshire, and the Humber would all have lower overall numbers of homes built than the present three-year average.

It was obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense that the proposals would be extremely unpopular with many people in the southern Conservative-held constituencies.

Apparently, 80 or so Conservative MPs have now rebelled against the plans and the government is set to ‘rebalance’ the new home building targets away from suburban and rural areas in the south to more urban areas in the north and midlands.

Is that good news for everyone? Well, people in the north have access to more houses (if they are ever built and there is no certainty of that), whereas people in the south will miss out.

However, those in the south who want to preserve the countryside and not have new homes built next to them will be smiling.

There was some rationale for the plans – the government’s algorithm indicated the greatest need was in the south. Nevertheless, the MPs there have prevailed.

The climb down by the government begs the obvious question – before announcing the plans, why didn’t Boris and his team sound out their MPs to see if they could get the plans through parliament.

Lack of foresight and planning or sheer hubris? Either way, the climb down is embarrassing to say the least. Not that the government should be concerned about being embarrassed. After the COVID-19 crisis and Brexit fiascos, it must be used to public ridicule.

At least the reversal confirms two things:

  • Many Conservative politicians say they want to see more houses built, just as long as they are not in their area.
  • The government needs to find the necessary expertise and political will if the housing problem is to be solved.

As for the quality of our politicians (on both sides of the political spectrum), we will leave that for others to comment on.


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