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Fifteen face intervention over local plan failure

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Fifteen councils without a local plan have been threatened with intervention by the communities secretary and could have the plans written for them by Whitehall.

Speaking in Bristol today, Sajid Javid also warned other local authorities “lagging behind” with getting their documents adopted: “Don’t think for one minute you have got away with it.”

Meanwhile, Mr Javid also confirmed he is willing to lift councils’ borrowing cap for housing in some areas as part of housing deals.

During a speech in which Mr Javid confirmed the reclassification of housing associations as private entities, the communities secretary pointed to 15 out of more than 70 councils without an adopted local plan as causing “particular cause for concern”. This is due to “deadlines being missed, promises being broken” and “unacceptably slow” progress on getting local plans adopted.

“Today is the day my patience has run out,” said Mr Javid. “Those 15 authorities have left me with no choice but to start the formal process of intervention we set out in the white paper.

“By failing to plan they have failed the people they are meant to serve.”

In his speech Mr Javid singled out City of York Council, which he said had not had a local plan or equivalent in place since the 1950s. 

The other 14 councils are Liverpool City Council, Calderdale and Wirral MBCs, Northumberland CC, Basildon, Brentwood, Castle Point, Eastleigh and Runnymede BCs and Bolsover, Mansfield, North East Derbyshire, St Albans & City and Thanet DCs. Those councils have until 31 January to put forward any exceptional circumstances as to why they have not got adopted local plans before the communities secretary takes a final decision on whether to intervene or not.

Earlier in this speech, Mr Javid had said local government is “the most important cog in the housing and planning machine”.

He said most councils were performing well and added: “Where councils are showing drive and ambition the government will back them every step of the way, including with a kind of housing deal we are negotiating here in the West of England.

“In areas where the supply and demand are most badly mismatched, where most homes are most unaffordable to most people, I want to give local authorities the tools that they need to build more and that includes financial headroom. I want to help local authorities because most of them deserve it.”

A source close to Mr Javid told LGC the communities secretary is only interested in lifting the borrowing cap for ‘ambitious’ areas, and not the whole of local government.

LGC has previously reported how areas including Leeds, Newcastle, Stoke-on-Trent, and Newark & Sherwood in Nottinghamshire have been in talks with the government about bespoke housing deals.

Last month Mr Javid made a pitch for the government to borrow more for housing. At the time that was rebuffed by chancellor Philip Hammond but when pressed on whether today’s announcement regarding the reclassification of housing associations freed up funds, Mr Javid said: “I’m not going to get into the Budget today but when you see and hear the Budget you’ll see the whole government machine is working together on [housing].”

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