Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell has been appointed as Minister of State for Housing, Planning and Minister for London at the Department for Communities and Local Government. We take a look at what this means for the planners and developers.
A former Conservative staffer and Croydon councillor who has previously served as PPS to ministers in the DCLG and Department for Education, Mr Barwell’s appointment represents a return to a departmental role after a long spell in the Whips’ Office.
Mr Barwell has a record of involvement in planning and development: aside from his background in local government, he served as then Minister for Cities & Decentralisation Greg Clark MP’s Parliamentary Private Secretary during the preparation of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). He is an enthusiast for achieving the right mix of uses and tenure types in development, commenting on his appointment:
“I look forward to working with councils, housing associations, developers, investors and local communities to make sure we build we need with the mix of tenures that people want and that those homes should be great places to live.
At a local level, he has echoed this in his comments on a potential Westfield scheme in his constituency:
“I also want to make a point about mixed use. The development scheme is not just a retail transformation; it will provide hundreds of new homes and leisure opportunities. We want Croydon’s major town centre to be an active destination not just during shopping hours but pretty much around the clock”.
Unsurprisingly, given the location of his constituency, he has campaigned to protect Green Belt land partnering with local residents' association to try to protect green space and has launched a petition to stop LB Croydon’s Labour administration from building on school fields.
It is also interesting to note that the Conservatives have chosen to revive the role of Minister for London for Mr Barwell, last held by Labour’s Dame Tessa Jowell in 2010. Mr Barwell holds a marginal London seat which has become a regular target for Labour; the appointment suggests the Conservatives are aware they must do something to halt their decline in the Capital following Sadiq Khan’s victory in the Mayoral election.
Overall, Mr Barwell’s appointment is one which is likely to signal continuity at the DCLG: given his role supporting Greg Clark during the formulation of the NPPF we expect to see planning policy continue in the same direction on his watch.