Sunak to intervene in London housing in challenge to mayor

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has taken aim at Sadiq Khan, accusing the London mayor of failing to build enough homes in the capital, as Downing Street prepares to announce a review of the city’s development plan.

In recent days the Tories have set out a range of reforms and proposals designed to boost house-building in England, with the Prime Minister due to visit a site in north-west London later on Thursday.

According to the Evening Standard, the Prime Minister will review the multi-decade London plan, which is intended to guide the development of the city over the next 20-25 years.

The paper reports that Mr Sunak has given Mr Khan a deadline of three to four months to agree changes to the plan before Housing Secretary Michael Gove considers whether to use his ministerial powers to intervene.

“The mayor has failed to deliver the homes that London needs. This has driven up house prices and made it harder for families to get on the housing ladder in the first place,” Mr Sunak told the paper.

“That is why we are stepping in today to boost house-building and make home ownership a reality again for people across this great city.”

Mr Gove used a speech in London this week to set out a range of planning reforms, including on leasehold reform, simplifying planning procedures, expanding planning capacity and regenerating and reviving inner cities.

The proposals include developing a new urban quarter in Cambridge with space for homes, art facilities, laboratories and green areas.

Housing is seen as an issue likely to resonate on the doorsteps come a general election, expected next year.

It is also a topic that has provoked concern from Conservative backbenches in the past, with the Prime Minister this week seeking to assure Tory MPs that his plan was not about “uncontrolled development”.

The Government will reportedly say that more flats and houses could be built on some sites, such as those close to Underground stations, rather than single-storey warehouses.

The Prime Minister will also announce, the paper said, £150 million of funding directly to boroughs in a move that would bypass the mayor’s office and be used to prepare brownfield sites for new housing development.

Mr Khan in May hailed his record on housing delivery, as he pointed to progress in surpassing the target of starting 116,000 affordable homes in London between 2015 and 2023.

The Labour mayor said that under his leadership more homes had been completed in the capital than at any time since the 1930s.

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: “These disappointing and disingenuous claims appear to show a fundamental lack of understanding of housebuilding in London.

“The Mayor delivered record numbers of affordable homes over the last six years, consistently exceeding Government targets despite the impact of the pandemic and Brexit. This has included starting more council homes than at any time since the 1970s.

“The Mayor’s London Plan was approved by the Government in 2021 and the ministers should know that the housing figures included within it are reliant on sufficient government investment being made in infrastructure, particularly transport.”

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