The post-reshuffle DCLG

Farewell, Eric. After five years at the top of the Department for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles has been quietly moved aside by the newly emboldened Prime Minister. The loss of the colourful Mr Pickles, with his fondness for frequent bin collections and flag displays means that planners and developers have a new regime to get to know. We've taken a look at some of the key figures in the new-look DCLG.

Rt Hon Greg Clark MP
Greg Clark, the MP for Tunbridge Wells and new Secretary of State, has built up an impressive ministerial track record in Government. He has worked in DCLG and the Treasury, and was most recently responsible for Universities, Science, Cities and the Constitution in a portfolio shared between BIS and the Cabinet Office. He has a track record as a supporter of devolution, having negotiated the City Deals in the early years of the last Government, and his appointment likely heralds a renewed focus on city governance. Mr Clark is well-liked outside Conservative Party, too: his arrival has been welcomed by the Town and Country Planning Association, the Local Government Chronicle, and been described as "a positive step" by Sir Stephen Houghton, leader of Barnsley Council.

Brandon Lewis MP
Brandon Lewis MP continues as a Minister of State, with responsibility for planning and housing. This provides stability in ministerial portfolios that had been changing hands rapidly before 2014. Mr Lewis has much to be getting on with, since the Conservatives have promised to build 200,000 new starter homes for young families and to have planning permissions in place on 90% of brownfield sites before 2020. Industry figures are already calling for details on how this will be achieved, and it is a tall order to make sure that planning and housing are seen as working well together.

James Wharton MP
The MP for Stockton South has been made Minister for the Northern Powerhouse, underlining the Government's commitment to making progress on its vision of "a collection of northern cities – sufficiently close to each other that combined they can take on the world." He's on the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative Party, having tried to pass a Private Member's Bill to introduce an EU referendum, so bringing him into the tent might be a useful way of making sure he toes the Government line. With Greg Clark as the Secretary of State, and the personal attention of the Chancellor, driving the Northern Powerhouse is clearly a policy priority for the new Government, so Mr Wharton will be keen to impress.

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At least there’s some intelligent spatial/property appreciation at the head of the Department following the last 5 years of "brains go missing", bizarre policy fetishes and general slanging matches. It’s generally accepted in local government circles that Clark and Lewis at least are people that local government can work with. Clark doesn’t do an entirely convincing job of being enthusiastic around the Government’s (Osborne’s effectively) pumping of the demand side or the direction of the supply side interventions (R2B for HA properties). Brownfield is supposed to be delivered by ‘reducing local authority fees’ – lord knows how shaving planning permission fees ~(which are the only fees I can see go to LAs from developers) makes up for the profitability and infrastructure gaps required to bring forward a lot of brownfield in the NW.

By Sceptic

even if the north western brownfield land was made capable of development nobody would still wish to live there. if the land had been developable, it would have been developed by now. seize the nettle and release land where people do wish to live, namely land around the northern towns of cheshire east!

By joe bloggs

People only don’t wish to live on brownfield sites because of the inability of private developers to create desireable places. British house builders are unsophisticated beasts unlike their counterparts on the continent. Releasing green belt land on its own might be highly profitable for the builders and landowners but it does little to nothing for supply (as the market does not function properly) nor does it do anything for the quality of our urban environment.

By Anon