Jenrick moots hike in 300,000 homes target and planning support for refurbishment over demolition

The housing secretary has said the government's target of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s "may not be ambitious enough" and has suggested that he will support the "renovation and refurbishment" of existing buildings through the planning system.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick speaking at a previous Policy Exchange event at the Conservative Party Conference
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick speaking at a previous Policy Exchange event at the Conservative Party Conference

Speaking yesterday at an event hosted by think tank Policy Exchange and research group Create Streets, Robert Jenrick said the government "must go much further and faster" in its housing ambitions.

"It means that even our target of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s may not be ambitious enough," he said.

Elsewhere, the minister suggested that "the focus on sustainability, and how we can protect communities and our planet" should mean that buildings are reused or repurposed rather than demolished.

He said: "Research shows that the construction, demolition and excavation of old homes generates around three-fifths of total UK non-hazardous waste every year – which is a staggering figure.

"For the country to cut its carbon footprint, drive sustainability and meet our net-zero targets, all of us – in industry and in government – have a responsibility to promote the re-use of existing buildings."

Jenrick pointed to the "renovation and refurbishment of Victorian terraces" in Liverpool rather than their demolition under the last Labour government’s Housing Market Renewal Initiative as a positive example of such reuse.

"I will certainly be supporting initiatives like that, through the planning system and through my powers as secretary of state," he said.

Talking about the creation of local design guides, under measures announced by the government last month to improve housing quality, the minister said he wanted these to "actually become the product of [councils] listening to local groups, considering local tradition and embedding in these codes and then in turn embedding that in planning policy, making it a legal right for local people to demand these standards".

The minister said such local design guides would "set for example, a presumption in favour of homes on streets; homes with front doors; homes with fronts and backs; homes with quality facades; roofs in line with local tradition; concerns for local vernacular and heritage. And a presumption, for the first time, in favour of tree-lined streets."

Jenrick also said that building on the green belt "isn’t one of my priorities," adding light-heartedly: "Number 10 will be pleased to hear if they’re listening to this speech."

The government's 300,000 homes a year target was first announced by ex-chancellor Philip Hammond in November 2017

The Jenrick speech can be read in full here. 

Last month, the government renewed its plans to allow offices to be demolished and replaced with new homes under eased planning rules. 


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