Amongst the drama of high-profile sackings and demotions in yesterday’s reshuffle, the appointment of Savid Javid MP as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government passed with relatively little comment. But what does his appointment mean for developers?
A bus driver’s son who became the youngest vice-president of the Chase Manhattan Bank, Javid is one of the most rapidly-promoted men from the 2010 intake. Initially PPS to George Osborne MP as the Chancellor, he became Economic Secretary from 2012-2013, Financial Secretary to the Treasury (2013-2014), Minister for Equalities (2014), then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (2014-2015) and finally Secretary of State for Business, Infrastructure and Skills (BIS) from 2015-16. Whether this ascent will continue as rapidly under the new Prime Minister is uncertain: Javid backed Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb for leader.
To date, Javid has had a mixed record on the issue of development. As Secretary of State for BIS, he was an enthusiast for deregulation and brought forward proposals to speed the delivery of housing and infrastructure. Launching the Cutting Red Tape Review in December 2015, he proposed to remove restrictions on developers:
“This review will give housebuilders and smaller construction businesses a powerful voice as part of our £10 billion deregulation drive. Where rules are too complicated, ineffective or poorly enforced, I want to hear about it and the government will take action. Together we can cut red tape and get Britain building.”
He also included proposals to allow homeowners to build as many as two extra storeys without needing normal planning permission, as long as neighbouring residents do not object, reduce planning restrictions on brownfield sites, and reduce energy efficiency standards for new homes in Fixing the Foundations, a productivity plan released last year.
He has also commented on the importance of devolving more power to local authorities, arguing in the Devolution and Growth Across Britain debate in June 2015 that it represents “a revolution in the way England is governed.” His focus on devolution stems largely from his BIS role where he announced in February 2016 the outcome of the joint consultation on devolving powers to extend Sunday trading hours to local areas.
At a local level, however, he has intervened in debates around development to raise residents’ concerns on a number of occasions. He has campaigned vigorously against the allocation of land in Bromsgrove’s Green Belt to meet neighbouring Redditch’s housing need, writing to the Planning Inspector in 2014 to argue that “housing need does not justify the harm done to the Green Belt by inappropriate development.”
Given Mr Javid’s enthusiasm for deregulation and delivery, we can expect his focus as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to remain on helping housebuilders to move forward development. This said, he is clearly aware of the impact of residents’ concerns; it will be interesting to see how he handles his first call-in.