Michael Gove pledges to block ‘ugly’ new housing developments

Levelling-up secretary says he will ‘call in’ new homes

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Monday 14 November 2022 13:48 GMT
<p>Poundbury’s central square is a large open air car park</p>

Poundbury’s central square is a large open air car park

Michael Gove has promised to use his powers to intervene and block new housing developments if the government deems them too ugly.

The levelling-up secretary told a think-tank event in London on Monday that he would use his "call-in" powers to stop developments which were not "aesthetically of high quality", adding: "People do not want ugliness imposed on them."

Speaking to an audience at the Centre for Policy Studies Mr Gove insisted the government's floated reforms of the planning system were not "dead".

But he said the government would insist new developments were "beautiful" and promote a sense of "neighbourhood" – as well as having adequate infrastructure and respecting the environment.

"We will use all the powers we have, including call-in powers, in order to make sure that developments which are not aesthetically of high quality don't go ahead," Mr Gove told the audience.

Michael Gove was re-appointed at levelling-up secretary under Rishi Sunak

"For those who are seeing the new houses built the fact that so many of our volume house builders use a restricted pattern book with poor quality materials and the aesthetic quality of what they produce is both disappointing and also not in keeping with high aesthetic standards that may already exist. That is a reason why communities say no, they do not want ugliness to be imposed on them."

He added the government would introduce design codes for buildings, but that developers which followed them would be more easily able to gain planning permission.

Mr Gove argued that the changes would make people less hostile to new development.

But despite promising to prioritise beauty in new developments, he also used his speech to praise the experimental town of Poundbury in Dorset.

The town, championed by King Charles III, is not uncontroversial – and many of its buildings left critics "merciless in their ridicule", according to a review by the journal of the American Institute of Architects.

But Mr Gove dismissed criticism of the town, and said actually it was actually "beautiful".

"People say oh, it's pastiche and you know, the King, the Prince of Wales his architectural vision, you know, misty eyed, old-fashioned – that's all rubbish," he said.

"The thing about Poundbury is these are beautiful homes," he said, adding that homes in the urban extension were now worth more than homes in neighbouring Dorchester.

Mr Gove returned to his role leading the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities after Rishi Sunak became prime minister, having stepped down for the duration of Liz Truss's brief premiership and signalling that he would not return to front line politics.

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