Khan dismisses Gove intervention on London housing crisis as ‘political stunt’

Housing secretary wants mayor to partially review the London Plan to try to boost the number of new homes, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Michael Gove (left) has urged London mayor Sadiq Khan (right) to build more homes
Michael Gove (left) has urged London mayor Sadiq Khan (right) to build more homes

Michael Gove has dramatically intervened in the capital’s housing crisis by directing Sadiq Khan to partially review the London Plan to try to boost the number of new homes.

The Housing Secretary has been threatening for months to take this action as he confronts the mayor over the speed of building new homes in the city.

He has asked City Hall to report back on the review by September as he seeks to boost efforts to tackle the city’s housing crisis.

But Khan, along with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, dismissed the move as a “political stunt”, which they said had been specifically timed to coincide with the London mayor’s re-election campaign launch.

Gove also announced £500,000 of specialist planning support to help the building of 7,200 more homes in Greenwich and Newham. The cabinet minister wants the review to focus on two specific areas; industrial land and “opportunity areas”.

The housing department stressed that an estimated 6,800 hectares of land are being used for industry in the capital.

It believes that 736 hectares, the size of about 900 football pitches, could “potentially” be turned into housing developments, but are reportedly stuck in the planning system.

Developers have said policies in London are restricting new schemes, though they have been accused of “land banking” to push up prices of new properties.

Gove’s officials also highlighted 47 areas across London that the mayor and Greater London Authority had identified as each “typically having the potential” to deliver at least 2,500 new homes or 5,000 new jobs, or a combination of the two, but the government believes that “many have made almost no progress and others appear to have plateaued”.

Ministers are demanding sufficient targeting for the best areas to develop, amending any policies that could be hampering schemes, and that the mayor examines if a single planning framework would boost delivery of new homes.

Gove said: “Londoners are being let down by the mayor’s chronic under delivery of new homes in the capital. We have already taken comprehensive action to reverse this trend – investing billions of pounds to build affordable homes and unlocking brownfield developments as part of our long-term plan for housing.

“However, that alone will not build the homes we need, which is why I am now directing the mayor to review aspects of the London Plan and announcing specialist support on planning to help unlock thousands of homes.”

Responding, Khan told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “If you needed a better example of this being a political stunt, he announces it the day I’m launching my campaign – when he knows the big central theme of my announcement today is on housing.

“It’s just another example of this government being just exhausted and gimmicky, and they’ve run out of road. Why don’t we just call a general election and get it over and done with?”

Labour leader Sir Keir agreed that the move by Gove amounted to “game-playing”.

“Instead of getting on with governing and doing the job that he’s actually there to do, he’s putting out orders this morning precisely because Sadiq is launching his campaign,” he said.

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