Sunak faces rebellion as 50 MPs sign amendment to scrap mandatory local housing targets for councils

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is facing a rebellion of about 50 MPs who want an end to housebuilding targets for councils through an amendment. The amendment is led by former cabinet minister Theresa Villiers and has the backing of 46 MPs. They want to scrap mandatory local housing targets and make them advisory only.

The vote on the bill will likely be pulled by the government on Monday. Further engagement on the concerns of the MPs has been promised, even though officially ministers say the vote has been delayed because of time pressures from the finance bill.

Several former cabinet ministers, including Damian Green, Esther McVey, Priti Patel, Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith are backing the bill. Tracey Crouch, Treasury select committee chair Harriett Baldwin, foreign affairs committee chair Alicia Kearns and Maria Miller are the other MPs to have signed the bill. 

It also aims to abolish the five-year land supply rule which determines if enough sites have been allocated for development for five years’ worth of housing. In case there aren’t enough numbers, then developers can submit applications for land that has not been allocated for housebuilding.

Both Sunak and his predecessor Liz Truss had said that they will relax rules on housebuilding during the Conservative leadership contest.

While Truss had said she will end “Whitehall-inspired Stalinist housing targets”, Sunak had promised to relax the five-year rule. He had also said he would stop local authorities requesting changes to greenbelt boundaries.

Former levelling up secretary Simon Clarke said he was alarmed by the amendment. “There is no question that this amendment would be very wrong. I understand totally how inappropriate development has poisoned the debate on new homes in constituencies like Chipping Barnet [Villiers’ constituency], but I do not believe the abandonment of all housing targets is the right response,” he tweeted.

(With inputs from agencies)

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