Sharma dismisses Corbyn estate renewal ballot proposal

Housing and planning minister Alok Sharma has ruled out forcing councils to ballot residents before carrying out estate regeneration projects, saying that he prefers 'collaboration' over 'combat'.

Housing and planning minister Alok Sharma
Housing and planning minister Alok Sharma

At last week’s Labour Party conference in Brighton, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he believed too many council regeneration schemes amount to "forced gentrification and social cleansing" and that, under a Labour government, no work could take place unless approved by a ballot of existing tenants and leaseholders.

But speaking today at a Conservative Party fringe session in Manchester, Sharma said: "This has to be a process of collaboration rather than combat. That’s how you get things done."

The minister added that residents unhappy with regeneration proposals would in any case get the chance to have their say through the existing local elections process. "At the end of the day, regeneration projects are passed through councils, so effectively they have their say at a ballot," he said.

In the same session, David Montague, chief executive of housing association L&Q, said that local people need to have a say in regeneration proposals and support the process.

"But that’s about investing in those relationships up front and taking those people with you," he said. "I would support Corbyn’s view that you’ve got to take people with you. It’s a question of how."

Sharma told the fringe session that the Conservative Party needs to convince voters that it is able to tackle the housing crisis, or face the consequences at the next general election. "If we don’t get this right as a Conservative Party, we will have an issue at the next election," he said.

"The reason why people will superficially find some of the things Corbyn is saying attractive is because if they don’t have skin in the game, they might as well listen to a guy, even if they are not sure he can deliver any of his stuff."

Sharma also told the fringe session that his priority is to deliver "precisely" what is proposed in the February housing white paper.

"There are lots of announcements that are made and there are lots of things that we are trying to do. But what is really important as well is for us to deliver on announcements that we have made in the recent past," he said.

"I genuinely believe that the housing white paper is a fantastic blueprint for fixing the broken housing market, and that includes the planning system. For me, what’s really important is that we go through and deliver precisely what’s in here."

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