“We need to think differently.”
The candidates for the next PM/Conservative party leader are in Devon today – as reported in Politico:
ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
GO WEST: Assuming they’re in better shape today than the rest of the country, Sunak and Truss will be out and about in the Southwest ahead of another head-to-head hustings in front of the party faithful. The latest face-off comes as ballot papers start to land on Tory members’ doormats, marking the beginning of a crucial week for the candidates, with many members expected to cast their votes in the next few days. Tax is once again the main battleground as Sunak makes a last-ditch bid to come from behind and win the title.
Truss will be touring Devon, including a stop at a farm, while Sunak has appointments in North Dorset, Taunton Deane and East Devon before hitting Exeter.
Besides the perhaps stereotypical ‘stop at a farm’, the candidates will be talking about housing – as reported in today’s Western Morning News:
Housing pressures in the South West and support for farmers have been highlighted as key issues by Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss as their campaign to lead the Conservative Party and the country brings them to the Westcountry…
Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak said ahead of this evening’s hustings that as part of his plan for the South West he will announce measures to tackle the issue of housing and holiday homes – a concern he said had been raised by communities across the region. In a campaign statement he said: “A critical part of that plan is tackling the issue of uncontrolled property lets which prevent local people from getting onto the housing ladder. So I will amend planning policy to give local councils a greater say over proposals to convert primary homes into tourist rental properties, and I will press on with reviewing the effect of short-term lets on local residents – providing further powers to local authorities where these are needed. You will not be priced out of your home towns and villages on my watch.”
On Friday, in an interview with the party blog ConservativeHome, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss also talked about housing and stressed the importance of creating “low-tax investment zones which will also have a simpler planning system attached to them” and “more incentives at a local level to build houses”. She said: “We need to think differently, and we also need different approaches in different parts of the country. What’s good in Cornwall is not necessarily good in London. In London, I support more building up of houses, allowing people to extend their houses upwards, using brownfield sites. In places like Cornwall, having more homes where people working in local industry can live and they’re attached to each other, like Bournville.”
Conservative Home columnist Georgia L Gilholy is critical:
On Thursday, former chancellor Rishi Sunak announced his plans to staunchly “protect” the Green Belt if Tory members make him leader. The wealthy MP has vowed to craft the upcoming planning law reforms to block councils from requesting green belt boundaries be compromised in order to free up more land for property development, and that planners will be forced to outright reject such plans…
Not only is this yet another attempt to pander to the elderly, but it is ecologically nonsensical. Just 6 per cent of British land is built up, and a measly 1 per cent of the Green Belt has been encroached upon since 2006. These belts do not protect vast swathes of our isles’ idyllic rolling hills and heather, but mandate a metaphorical and cartographic noose around the necks of our urban centres.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who continues to outpace her ex-Cabinet colleague in grassroots support, has not done much to outshine her rival on housing policy. Earlier this month she criticised the statutory duty of councils to identify sites for potential housing development. She even bizarrely blasted nationwide housing targets as ”Stalinist”, an interesting take given her own party’s commitment to such targets ahead of their landslide general election win less than three years ago. It is even odder for those of us who recall Truss’ 2019 rallying cry for the constriction of 1 million new houses in current Green Belt areas.
Just as Sunak scrambles for backers among the landed gerontocracy, Truss is eager to go out all guns blazing against an imagined Bolshevik bureaucracy, without backing up her ideas with a concrete alternative. While Truss has thankfully said she intends to relax planning laws – something she has been on record as supporting since at least 2018 –it is likely that backbenchers- already emboldened by their toppling of Johnson- are even more likely to successfully shut down such plans, as they were in 2020. It will take tremendous courage and grit to draw up serious planning liberalisation plans, and push them past her own MPs, if Truss intends to get a grip on Britain’s housing chaos…