Following the departure of Sajid Javid to the Home Office, James Brokenshire has been named as the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government.
Brokenshire served as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland from mid-2016 to January this year and takes over a government department that has clashed with some local authorities in the region over failure to produce Local Plans.
Housing in particular remains a constant in the national headlines, with the government facing calls to speed up delivery of housing and to do more to make homebuying affordable to a wider audience.
Consultation on changes to the National Planning Policy Framework was launched in March. As well as penalties for local authorities not delivering on housing, other policies in the frame include proposals around developer contributions.
Richard Barton, partner at How Planning, said: “James Brokenshire assumes the role at a time of potentially significant planning reform and with housing growth high on the Government’s agenda. It’s important he hits the ground running and carries through the work started by his predecessor.”
Javid took over the housing brief in January when the Department for Communities & Local Government’s responsibilities were widened. In March, he said he would be “breathing down the necks” of councils to speed up delivery, saying that Planning Inspectors would be given increased powers in areas that failed to deliver more completions.
Along with a dozen other councils, Wirral and Liverpool were on the receiving end of stern letters from Javid in light of their lack of Local Plans.
Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation said: “While it is disappointing to lose Sajid Javid from housing, we welcome James Brokenshire and look forward to working with him to drive forward the government’s multi-tenure approach to new housing delivery and the policy changes to the National Planning Policy Framework.
“These changes underpin the government’s agenda on so many levels – providing the right homes in the right places will increase UK productivity, economic growth and social wellbeing in the long-term.”
Dan Mitchell, planning partner at Barton Willmore in Manchester, said: “It’s a it unfortunate that we seen t keep changing minister,s but generally speaking government policy has been pretty consistent, and indeed there seems to be pretty strong cross-party support for encouraging development.
“Whether this leads to any further changes in light of the current reforms being discussed remains to be seen.”
David Montague, chief executive of L&Q, the London housing association that is working with Trafford Housing Trust on two North West schemes, said that Brokenshire is a capable successor : “Sajid Javid has made a sterling contribution towards addressing our housing crisis over the last two years and we are sorry to see him move on from his role.
“L&Q has enjoyed a good working relationship with James Brokenshire at a constituency level over many years, and he has demonstrated a sound understanding of the complex issues involved in housing. We look forward to continuing that relationship.”