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Walkley warns local plan stragglers

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The chief executive of Homes England has said he will “add some muscle and clout” to the world of development in order to force through thousands of new builds.

Nick Walkley told the District Councils’ Network conference on Thursday that “my job is to disrupt the housing market” but added he wanted to work with, and not against, councils to bring about change.

Mr Walkley said Homes England is working to deliver around £8bn investment to a current workload of 63 construction sites, while also buying “a lot of land”.

Speaking of the need to “bring a sledgehammer” to discussions with big property developers, Mr Walkley said he was prepared to use more compulsory purchase orders but only as a “matter of last resort”.

LGC reported in November how 15 councils without a local plan have been threatened with intervention and could have their plans written for them by Whitehall.

Mr Walkley, who placed 4th on the LGC100 list of local government’s most powerful people, said an absence of a local plan was “becoming very dangerous territory”.

“The winners and losers [in this area] are becoming starker,” he said.

Mr Walkley said he wanted to open up land to a greater number of smaller, family-owned developers. He said there is a need for more innovation in the housing market by growing SMEs and new entrants to build more housing.

“This requires bravery, but if we don’t do it then we’ll be trapped in a cycle of ’what we have is what we’ve got’,” he said. “There’s a crisis in the construction industry. Lots of builders are male, over 50 and thinking about retirement.”

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