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Rishi Sunak faces the party’s first major rebellion against housing construction targets

Rishi Sunak is still committed to the government’s goal of building 300,000 homes a year

Rishi Sunak voted on his UK government’s housing plans as dozens of Tory MPs threatened his first major rebellion as prime minister.

Some 47 Tory backbenchers had signed an amendment to the Leveling and Regeneration Bill that would have banned the imposition of mandatory housing targets on local councils. The bill is due to return to the House of Commons for debate on Wednesday, and a vote was due to take place next Monday.

That left Sunak – who has a working majority of 69 – facing defeat if Labor and other opposition parties backed the rebels.

While the bill will still be debated on Wednesday, a vote will no longer take place on Monday, a government official told Bloomberg, blaming a crowded parliamentary schedule. They said Leveling Up secretary Michael Gove would continue to engage with MPs over the coming weeks and hoped to be able to hold the vote before Christmas.

The decision to delay the vote is proof that Sunak is struggling to manage an unruly conservative party, which has defined itself by rebellions on a wide range of political issues that have crippled successive governments. It also gives party officials more time to find a compromise with potential rebels.

The proposed change to the bill was one of several proposed by former environment secretary Theresa Villiers to change planning. Late on Tuesday, she hailed the government’s decision to overturn the vote as a “significant victory” for grassroots Tories.

“The Strength of Feeling”
“It shows ministers know they need to listen to us and need more time to find a solution,” she said in a text message. “We can’t continue the way we are with these excessive top-down goals. We have to change.”

She added that the level of support for her amendment showed “the strength of sentiment there is on this issue”.

Housing planning and construction has long been a sticking point in the party, which traditionally dominates in leafy rural areas. The rebels, concerned about a voter backlash in their hearts, argue that local communities should have more of a say in where homes are built.

“A central target cannot recognize the different pressures in different parts of the country,” one of the would-be rebels, Damian Green, wrote on the ConservativeHome website on Tuesday. “National house price averages don’t make sense in the real world because the same house will cost many times the price on the outskirts of Sevenoaks as it does on the outskirts of Sunderland. This is precisely why we need local decisions, expressed in local plans, on the scale of development needed in each area.

The Tories have promised to build 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s, but efforts by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson to implement a planning policy that would allow a significant acceleration in housing construction have sunk amid divisions in his party, which blamed the plans in part for the defeat in a key special election last year. Construction of nearly 206,000 new homes began in 2021-22, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.


The current bill was introduced in parliament in May, when Johnson was still prime minister.

The rebels’ proposals were criticized by the co-author of the 2019 Tory manifesto, Robert Colvile, who said they would “enshrine ‘Nimbyism’ as the guiding principle of British society”. NIMBY means Not in my back yard.

Among other changes proposed by Villiers are making it harder to turn homes into vacation rentals and making it easier to encourage building on contaminated land rather than greenfield land, and stiffer penalties for developers who do not build once the building permit has been granted.

Sunak is still committed to the government’s goal of building 300,000 homes a year, his spokesman Max Blain said.

“We want to work constructively to make sure we’re building more homes in the right places,” Blain told reporters on Tuesday. the Department of Leveling, Housing and Communities and its Secretary of State, Michael Gove, are “very focused” on it, he said.

But the Prime Minister said in the first Tory leadership race this year – which he lost to Liz Truss – that his planning policy would be “brownfields, brownfields, brownfields”, suggesting that he is sympathetic to some of the opinions of the rebels.

“Over the past few years we have seen too many examples of local councils circumventing residents’ views by removing greenbelt land for development, but I will put a stop to that,” he told AFP. era.

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