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Updated: Javid 'fed up' with developers

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The housing and communities secretary is “fed up” with developers gaming the planning system and plans to make changes.

Speaking at the District Councils’ Network conference Sajid Javid said his ministry was “listening and responding” to councils over planning and housing and wanted to keep developers to their word by introducing “legally binding contracts” to make sure they build out.

“If they [developers] later say they need to change their plans and have less affordable housing then frankly they can bugger off and get someone else to do it,” Mr Javid said.

Mr Javid said “for too long” certain sections of land had remained empty so he is working to improve transparency around calculations in planning and development.

“For too long land has been empty and a generation has been locked out of the housing market. It is imperative we work together to fix our broken planning system,” he said, adding that the process would not be easy.

In his speech on Thursday, Mr Javid said the government commissioned review on planning and build out rates led by Sir Oliver Letwin MP (Con) would be “hard-hitting” and would seek to find answers to the “frustrating” problems surrounding planning in England.

“Enough is enough and we want to see those homes come through,” he said.

The chair of the Local Government Association Lord Porter (Con) said Mr Javid had consistently fought for councils at cabinet meetings and wanted to build houses.

“It’s not the government we have to convince, it’s the Treasury,” Lord Porter said, referring to funding for house building.

Mr Javid said he wanted homes to come through but he needed more support from his colleagues as well.

He urged councils to use the extra £1bn, announced in the Budget, that has been earmarked for councils to borrow to build so that he can try and argue for more funding in the future. LGC reported last month how the Treasury has only allocated £880m so far because it is not expecting enough applicants from councils.

“There’s already some [existing] £1.5bn of headroom but you should use what’s already there because government will say ’look they’re delivering, let’s allocate more [money]’. Just by using the new money and quickly it’d help make a difference,” said Mr Javid.

Mr Javid also said he was not committed to an “ideology” on reorganisation but on what is best for communities. This followed his decision to merge two pairs of districts in Suffolk.

On the finance settlement he admitted it “won’t tick every box” but added none ever do.

Mr Javid also reinforced a Conservative party manifesto policy that the government is ”not going to insist” rural areas need to adopt an elected mayor as part a devolution deal.  

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak, the new minister for local government, said there was a need for councils to deliver more for less by digitising more services.

“We need to harness technology to improve quality and efficiency of services delivered to constituencies,” Mr Sunak said. “Digital services have a vital role to play. They allow us to be more responsive than ever before.”

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