Yesterday, the Prime Minister conducted yet another mini-reshuffle. The primary aim appears to be shoring up his whipping operation,* but moving Christopher Pincher to Deputy Chief Whip left a gap at DLUHC. Into that gap has stepped Stuart Andrew, who has just become our 11th Housing Minister in as many years. 

Our new Housing Minister has a somewhat mixed record when it comes to planning. His voting record** shows strong support for increasing permitted development rights and High Speed 2; but his opposition to developments affecting his constituency, and the Leeds Site Allocations Plan, show a clear opposition to 'green field' developments , a dislike of high housing targets, and (of course) an apparent belief that the green belt should be sacrosanct*!. Which seems pretty typical of the views of many in the Conservative Party. 

Moving Christopher Pincher into the Whips Office has also severed the last link between the current ministerial team at DLUHC, and the champions of the 2020 Planning White Paper Reforms, which does not bode well for the consultation response which is still outstanding - and expected 'in due course'. 

We are currently on our 11th Housing Minister in just over eleven years. The average length of appointment for a Housing Minister currently stands at less than a year. By way of contrast, the average planning appeal currently takes 13 months to reach a decision by way of hearing; and local plans are expected to contain strategic policies that look at least fifteen years ahead. 

Given that the planning system is, essentially, dealing with long term aspirations - delivering housing, infrastructure and employment is rarely a short term endeavour - this lack of continuity in our political leadership is a real issue. 

We have a plan led system and yet, according to the Levelling Up White Paper only 39% of local authorities have adopted a plan within the last five years*^. Every time we get a change of policy direction from DLUHC, it causes further delays to the local plan system, whilst councils assess the implications of the change, and each new ministerial team appears to herald another shift in departmental priorities and policy direction. 

This may be wishful thinking, but what we could really do with is a period of stability at DLUHC. For the door to stop revolving long enough for a consistent, long term, policy direction to emerge....  well.. that and significantly more resources for local planning departments, so that they could actually devote staff to preparing local plans in the first place. 

In the meantime.... to mis-quote a well-known musical.... 

I don´t expect my ministers to last for long
Never fool myself that reforms will come true
Being used to shuffling I anticipate it
But all the same I hate it, wouldn´t you?

So what happens now?



* which seems to be having difficulties, despite an 80 seat majority

** which Planning Resource summarised in a really handy article yesterday afternoon

*!If you want to see more about his views on development, and indeed, the industries reaction to his appointment - you could do a lot worse than reading this post by Zack Simons on LinkedIn.

*^ for more on the problems this causes - here is another excellent piece by Zack Simons. If you don't follow him on LinkedIn yet, you should. His writing is excellent.