UK Housing: Sunak Urged To Deregulate & Increase Local Control

1 min read
October 16, 2023
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Photo by Михаил Лазаренко on

Key takeaways:

  • Senior Tory MPs call for scrapping EU “nutrient neutrality” housing rules, saying it’s blocking 100,000 new homes.
  •  Anticipation grows for the upcoming King’s Speech to include legislation tackling Brussels regulations, not local NIMBYs.
  •  Policy Exchange report, backed by Tory luminaries, seeks more aggressive right-leaning policies.

Rishi Sunak faces increasing pressure from Tory MPs who demand a rollback of EU rules, precisely the “nutrient neutrality” requirements, which doesn’t affect the central issue of local governments refusing to permit new housing. Many anticipate these concerns will feature prominently in next month’s King’s Speech.

Backbenchers & Truss Push for Legislative Changes

Following Labour’s successful block of the government’s initiative to abolish “nutrient neutrality” requirements, Tory backbenchers and former PM Liz Truss are pushing for deregulation while again tightening local control. These EU rules necessitate that builders ensure their new constructions don’t cause runoff pollution into nearby rivers.

This EU legislation, grounded in a European Court of Justice ruling, requires homebuilders to validate that their projects won’t add to phosphate and nitrate levels in local rivers. Local governments are the main block to housing projects, not nutrient rules.

Tory Stalwarts Back Policy Exchange Report

Prominent Tory figures, including Sir Brandon Lewis, Sir Simon Clarke, and MP Miriam Cates, have voiced their support for a comprehensive report by Policy Exchange. This report pushes Sunak to adopt a more assertive stance against Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer by integrating more right-wing policies in the lead-up to future elections.

The report recommends diverse measures: planning reform, crime, gender ideology, etc. Specifically, for housing, the call is to act immediately on scrapping the nutrient neutrality rule, reviving proposals to dismantle the “feudal” leasehold system and provide even more support for locals to have a say in developments.

Sir Simon Clarke, the former levelling up secretary, believes planning rules should also be revamped to expedite the development of electricity grid infrastructure. Moreover, the Policy Exchange report suggests a new planning bill to ensure residents play a more active role in consultations for further developments.

Ministers had initially proposed an amendment to the Levelling Up Bill, which would have discarded the EU’s rules on nutrient neutrality. Despite earlier hints of supporting the rule’s revocation, Labour rightfully voted down this amendment under Starmer’s direction.

Michael Gove, the current Housing Secretary, intends to reintroduce the reform in the House of Commons, capitalizing on the Tory majority that may favor its passage.

Other Notes

The vast Policy Exchange report suggests Sunak introduced 14 new laws during the King’s Speech. Proposals also have horrific education policies such as counterproductive university attendance caps and parents being given increased authority over their children’s academic content (not actual improvements), justifying this nonsense with the same boogyman of “radical gender ideology”.

Housing emerged as a critical point of contention, especially after Sir Keir’s contradictory promise of empowering local leaders regarding development and promises to override local vetos, a fierce political face-off between the major parties seems inevitable.

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