Gove to ‘pause controversial planning reforms’

New housing secretary Michael Gove is expected to rein in and review his predecessor’s plans for overhauling the planning system, according to reports.

Former housing secretary Robert Jenrick, who lost his place in the cabinet in this week’s reshuffle, had intended to put in motion a number of reforms through the Planning Bill intended to speed up housebuilding, including dividing land into zones for development or protection. The plans proved unpopular with some, who complained that it removed decision-making power from local authorities.

According to the Guardian, Gove plans to press pause on Jenrick’s plans before launching fresh reforms that may look distinctly different. A former Cabinet Office, justice, education and environment secretary, Gove is known for making his mark on whichever portfolio he is given. 

The newspaper says Gove will consult with backbenchers and industry on new and existing reforms. It also reports that he is facing calls to return £100,000 in donations he received last month from German property developer Zak Gertler. 

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As head of the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Gove will need to formulate a strategy to deliver the government’s 300,000-a-year housing target, without compromising commitments to halt nature’s decline, as set out in the Environment Bill.

He will also need to help under-resourced councils deliver mandatory net gain in developments, which will become law once the Environment Bill is enacted and which will enter into force in 2023.

Further thorny issues facing the housing secretary include the equally controversial overhaul of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) regime, and the housing logjam in counties where nutrient pollution has forced councils to stop greenlighting developments unless they can prove that they will not add to the existing nitrate or phosphate burden on protected sites such as the Solent and the Somerset Levels.