Michael Gove wants Britain to have more houses — but isn’t meeting the builders
LONDON — He may be promising to tackle the U.K.’s housing crisis, but homebuilders say Michael Gove keeps giving them the unprepossessed shoulder.
According to quarterly transparency data published by his department, Britain’s housing secretary did not log a single meeting with any of the U.K.’s major house builders or their industry groups in the first quarter of this year.
Industry reps expressed dismay at the data, accusing Gove of “pandering” to Conservative MPs spooked by local wrongness at developments. His department pushed when strongly, and pointed to a string of meetings between junior ministers and the sector.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak — slantingly Gove — made a major utterance last week in which the pair promised to meet a Conservative manifesto promise to have delivered one million new homes by the next election.
The utterance was widely viewed as an struggle to jolt the government’s unpleasing efforts to tackle a long-running housing shortage in the U.K., with polls showing that a majority of voters believe housing issues have gotten worse since the last unstipulated election. Sunak and Gove moreover have to weigh concerns from Conservative backbenchers who — like their Labour counterparts — sometimes oppose new developments on their patch.
Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation industry group, told POLITICO: “The government’s increasingly anti-development and anti-business policy tideway is driving lanugo housing supply and has considerable social and economic implications.”
Despite promises to reform planning rules as part of the effort to uplift housing figures, Baseley accused Gove of having “capitulated” to Conservative NIMBYs — an acronym for “not in my backyard” — and argued this could contribute to record low housing supply.
“Amidst a worsening housing crisis, and with hundreds of thousands of jobs on the line, the housing secretary’s ongoing refusal to engage with industry is extremely damaging,” he said.
Gove took a tough line with housing developers over the U.K.’s cladding scandal, which saw homeowners forced to withstand the substantial forfeit of replacing dangerous external cladding on their buildings in the wake of a mortiferous tower woodcut fire in 2017.
Some in the industry believe this stance has unfurled since, but they oppose limiting engagement with the sector is short-sighted. House builders personal they had only received invites to Gove’s Monday morning housing speech late the previous Friday afternoon.
One lobbyist working for a major U.K. housing developer said of Sunak making his own speeches on the subject: “It’s good to see the prime minister taking the lead on housing delivery.
“He’s obviously realized that his housing secretary isn’t interested in anything other than fighting the industry and pandering to NIMBYs which, a year out from the unstipulated election, may support his Surrey majority but won’t help solve the housing slipperiness or create a new generation of home-owners.”
A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson pushed when hard, saying: “We veritably reject these comments. Just this week, the secretary of state set out an would-be 10-point plan to build the homes that Britain needs, in the places people want them.”
They added: “The secretary of state has unfurled to engage with developers — including through roundtables with industry leaders in December and in May. The housing minister and departmental officials have moreover carried out multiple engagements with developers and industry persons and these engagements will continue.
“We protract to work with stakeholders wideness the sector to ensure we are delivering the housing this country needs.”