Huge Tory rebellion forces Sunak to back down over massive housing targets - 'Serious' problem for PM

Tory MP Bob Seely said rebels have been 'typecast' in an 'ill-informed way'

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A Conservative MP has pleaded with the Government to work with him and other rebels over planning reform during the first of two report stage days on the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill.

Bob Seely, who represents the Isle of Wight constituency, argued people opposed to top-down housing targets were not “anti-young people” or “pesky nimbys”, as he made the case for a planning system that was “community centred”, “environment centred” and “region centred”.

His comments came after Conservative former cabinet minister Theresa Villiers tabled several amendments to the Bill that would see both housing targets and the requirement for councils to demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land abolished.

Her bid, backed by more than 40 backbenchers and former cabinet ministers, reportedly prompted the Prime Minister to pull the vote scheduled for Monday, which is when the majority of her amendments would have been considered.

Ms Villiers’ proposals have been criticised by some, including 2019 Tory manifesto co-author Robert Colville, who said they would “enshrine ‘nimbyism’ as the governing principle of British society”.

Conservative MP and one of the rebel wing leaders Bob Seely
Conservative MP and one of the rebel wing leaders Bob Seely

Speaking to Tom Harwood on GB News, Mr Seely rejected some of the accusations levelled at him and other planning rebels.

“What’s causing a slowdown in house building is not councils saying no because 80% of development gets approved. It’s not pesky nimbys blocking everything because quite often they don’t have the power.

“What’s holding up development in this country is that there are about one million planning permissions that are land banked by the property companies, effectively land cartels, in order to keep the price of land high, the price of houses high, their share price high and their bonuses high.”

He added: “If you want to actually get building in this country, handing out another 100,000 permissions to Persimmons is not the way to do it. It’s just nonsense.”

The Conservative MP hit back at those who have criticised his comments.

“The problem is there are people engaged in this argument who simply don’t understand how the system works and what you need to if you want to change and improve the system.

“All our amendments, apart from scrapping the housing targets top down, are actually amendments about how we can free up the system to build more on brownfield and to disincentive greenfield and to incentive brownfield because we want to see that development boom – we just want to see it on brownfield sites in existing communities where there are already shops, already services, and where young families don’t necessarily need cars.”

He added: “We are being typecast in a way which is sloppy, ignorant and ill-informed.”

Speaking to GB News Breakfast, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said he welcomed the rebels comments.

“We all know that the current planning system needs to change. MPs wanted to make sure that when we have new houses that they’re built in the right places,” he told Andrew Pierce and Isabel Webster.

“They also, quite rightly, wanted to make sure that we prioritise development on brown-field land, and that when new houses are built that the infrastructure is there.

“Those MPs who’ve signed this amendment simply want to work with the Government in order to ensure that, as we reform the planning system, we take account of their community’s concerns and also their concerns about the environment.

“Their approach is a construction one, and I want to work with them in order to get this legislation right.”

Levelling Up, Housing & Communities Secretary Michael Gove MP
Levelling Up, Housing & Communities Secretary Michael Gove MP

Ms Villiers welcomed reports that a second day of scrutiny of the Bill would be postponed, telling MPs: “I think postponing day two of report stage is a sensible move. Planning legislation doesn’t come along very often. It could be another decade before a Bill pulls up at the station on planning.”

Speaking in support of her compulsory purchase powers amendment, the Chipping Barnet MP said: “We all know that new homes need to be provided. We need to do more to make sure that land which is derelict and unoccupied is put to use to help deliver those new homes, hence the new clause tabled today.”

Addressing Mr Seely and Ms Villiers, communities minister Dehenna Davison said: “I know many of their amendments will be on part two of report stage, and they will have the opportunity to speak on those in more detail and debate them in more detail at that stage.

“And that will be coming soon.”

On the new clause on compulsory purchase powers, Ms Davison said it was not “necessary” at the moment, as the Government was “going further” and “asking the Law Commission to undertake a review and consolidation of the law on compulsory purchase and compensation to make it more accessible and easier to understand”.

She added: “And as part of that work, the Law Commission will review existing CPO (compulsory purchase order) enabling powers to ensure they’re fit for purpose and will make recommendations where appropriate.”