Millions in Tory donations at risk as property developers hit back

Housebuilders and developers - who in the past have accounted for around a fifth of all donations - have turned off the taps.

Archie Mitchell
Tuesday 30 May 2023 08:24 BST
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Housing secretary Michael Gove defended the government’s climbdown on housing targets last year
Housing secretary Michael Gove defended the government’s climbdown on housing targets last year (PA Wire)

Property developers that have donated millions of pounds to the Conservative Party are “on strike” amid claims the party is blocking new house building.

Housebuilders and developers - who in the past have accounted for around a fifth of all donations - have turned off the taps.

A Tory source told The Times: “I think you might struggle to name a developer who is currently donating.”

It comes as the Home Builders Federation claims housebuilding in England is set to fall to the lowest level since the second world war. It has accused the government of having “anti-development and anti-business” policies which threaten to dramatically slow development.

And in December the government was slammed by developers for scrapping building targets after a rebellion of backbench MPs.

Ministers watered down local housebuilding targets to avoid what would have been the first major Commons rebellion of Rishi Sunak’s premiership.

The change made a centrally determined target to build 300,000 homes a year a “starting point” or “goal”. Councils can propose building fewer homes if they faced “genuine constraints” or would have to build at a density that would “significantly change the character” of their area.

The Conservatives manifesto in 2019 set out a target to ‘build 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s’
The Conservatives manifesto in 2019 set out a target to ‘build 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s’ (AP)

The rate of new homes being built has fallen every month since, and developers responded furiously.

Rob Boughton, who runs one of the biggest developers in the southeast, Thakeham, said MPs should be “ashamed” for protecting “a vocal minority at the cost of so many”. Mr Boughton, whose company has donated nearly £1million to the party since 2017, wrote on LinkedIn: “What happened to creating opportunity? These small-minded, selfish people just don’t get it.”

In another post, he said: “What hope do the aspiring [first-time buyers] have? Do they care about 20 to 45-year-olds in this country or not?”

And the founder of one of the country’s biggest housebuilders Redrow described the government as “anti-housebuilding”. In an interview with industry publication Building, Steve Morgan, who has given more than £1.25million to the Conservatives, said: “It’s almost like the government wants to destroy the industry.”

The pair last donated to the Conservatives last October. Another Tory source told The Times: “They [the developer donors] are on strike. And is it any surprise? What a way to spit in their f***ing face.”

The Conservative party treasurer, Graham Edwards, is chairman of one of the UK’s biggest property companies Telereal Trillium. A party spokesman said: "We have had a very healthy first half of the year for donations.”

Labour is hoping to capitalise on the government’s record on housebuilding and has set out plans to give local officials sweeping new powers to buy land cheaply and develop on it.

Party sources told The Guardian that if elected next year, they will pass a law to allow local development authorities in England the power to buy up land at a fraction of its potential cost if they want to build on it.

It will let officials buy land under compulsory purchase orders without having to factor in the “hope value” – a massive price premium granted to any land on which developers hope to secure planning permission.

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