Secretary of State announces new policies at Conservative Party Conference
October 4, 2019

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, has delivered a keynote speech to the party faithful at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, suggesting a range of new policies to tackle the housing crisis.

The essence of the Secretary of State’s speech can be summarised in four key commitments:

  1. Allowing landowners to add up to two storeys to their (detached) houses without applying for planning permission.
  2. Giving developers the opportunity to pay for expedited service from planning departments.
  3. Insisting on higher levels of energy efficiency on all new builds.
  4. Moving to ensure better design in all new builds, especially for larger developments.

To address the final point, the Secretary of State has released a new Design Guide, acting on the interim recommendations of the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission, with advice on how to develop sites which are in keeping with the local area and thus less likely to face organised opposition. This new Guide will not have statutory force, but will have “clout” when considering poor design under Paragraph 130 of the NPPF.

To address the remaining points, the Secretary of State is limited on what he can do under delegated powers, which Parliament retains the right to block. It is unlikely that any Parliamentary time will be devoted to a new Bill or substantial package of orders made under delegated powers for as long as Parliament wrestles with the Prime Minister’s “do or die” pledge to deliver Brexit by October 31st.

In short, Westminster is gearing up for a General Election before the year’s end, and it is unlikely any of these proposals can be put into practice before then. This sensitivity to public opinion may be why a heavily trailed policy to reclassify Green Belt land near to railway stations was dropped for this speech. Those in the real estate industry should keep an eye out for which of these proposals find their way into the Conservative Party Manifesto.

The full text of this speech is reproduced below:

I’m delighted to be in Manchester for my first conference as Housing Secretary.

When I arrived, I saw a sign saying that it is home to the world’s longest running soap opera. And I thought that, they, too, know we need to get Brexit done by 31st of October.

I’m here today to tell you about my mission. As the first millennial in Cabinet, I will address the challenge of my generation: building the homes our country needs; and building the ownership society our party has always stood for, from Coronation Street to every other street across the country.

This is the city where my grandparents bought their first home. £250 later, they had a piece of Manchester that was theirs.

For we Conservatives, helping people to own a home has always been at the heart of our moral mission.

And the property-owning democracy is a perpetual goal for which our party strives to ensure that every generation has the opportunity to benefit.

So while some people say we should give up on homeownership, that’s not my way.

I believe in ownership as the bulwark of individual freedom, bringing security, dignity and independence. So I will redouble our efforts.

But according to Jeremy Corbyn, homeownership is a “national obsession”.

As we stand here in Manchester, home of United and City, don’t let Corbyn tell you that an obsession needs to be a bad thing – however much the United half of the city might feel that right now.

While Corbyn obsesses about how he can get rid of Tom Watson, let us, in the Conservative Party, instead obsess about how to make people’s lives better.

Since 2010 we’ve delivered over 1.3 million new homes. Last year we delivered the highest number bar one year in my adult lifetime:  more years than some of you may think!

And we’ve cut stamp duty for 95% of first-time buyers. But we’ve got much more to do.

Firstly, we’re going to find more routes to homeownership.

To overcome the barrier of raising enough money for a deposit, I’ve already simplified the shared ownership option.

Today I’m going further, working with housing associations to give as many of their 2.6 million tenants as possible the right to shared ownership of their home – starting with all new properties.

Common sense to us. Alien to Corbyn’s Labour.

We want people to own their own home. Labour want people to rent for life from landlord Corbyn.

We want to provide a ladder. They kick the ladder away after them.

Secondly, we’re reforming our outdated, contradictory planning system, which is holding us back. It’s a system that’s even more confused than Emily Thornberry trying to explain Labour’s Brexit policy – and that’s saying something.

I want to follow in the footsteps of Conservative reformers who have held my office and used it to get this country building – from Harold MacMillan, Keith Joseph and Michael Heseltine to Eric Pickles.

So I will simplify the system.

I’m announcing new freedoms, including to build upward so that your home can grow as your family does too.

Reducing conditions, speeding up consent. Better funded local planning in return for efficient service. The beginning of a planning revolution.

Thirdly, no new home will be built in the country from 2025 without low carbon heating and the highest levels of energy efficiency.

We want better homes – and a better planet to match.

And fourthly, these new homes must be well-designed, safe, and rooted in places to which people can belong.

I am announcing the first national design guide and asking every community to produce their own. Empowering people to make sure that development works for them, in keeping with the local heritage and vernacular, with each new street lined with trees.

So, under the Conservatives, more environmentally-friendly homes, more beautiful homes, faster and simpler planning, and a leg up on to the property ladder.

It was William Hague who said in his last speech to conference that, “the mass extension of homeownership in the 80s shows how the whole nation benefits from Conservative principles in action”.

He was right.

The Conservatives have led one homeownership revolution in the ‘80s already.

Let’s do it again.

But as Margaret Thatcher once said, “there are no final victories in politics”.

 Even something as basic as private property is now endangered.

 Labour will tax you for moving house, for helping your children get onto the property ladder.

 They’ll even tax your garden.

 No wonder Corbyn has an allotment!

 We want to unite and level up all parts of the country.

 The British public voted to take back control. And that doesn’t just mean Westminster regaining sovereignty from the EU.

 It means that cities, towns and counties can become more self-governing and accountable to people.

 So, with the first Prime Minster to have been a mayor himself since Clement Attlee, we are ready to usher in a new stage of decentralisation. Devolution has got its BoJo back.

 We must put an end to dither, delay and division.

 A government led by Jeremy Corbyn could never do that.

 As Communities Secretary and the father of three Jewish children, I know few feel this as strongly as British Jews. 

 A Labour Councillor in this city, with its 250-year old Jewish community, is suspended for antisemitism.

 Under Corbyn’s leadership, the world’s oldest form of hatred is back in the mainstream.

 We must never allow these people to run our country.

 I will do everything in my power to fight prejudice and discrimination, in all its forms and against all religions.

 Our party wins when we offer leadership for the future.

 Home ownership as an attainable goal, not an unachievable aspiration.

 Environmentally-friendly homes fit for the next generation.

 Levelling up our country, so that talent and genius are never wasted. 

 Each community respected and protected, but integrated and stronger together.

 A Britain that is everything Corbyn’s Labour Party is not.

 More prosperous. More united. More optimistic. Face turned to the future.