Tory heartlands will have to find space for 1.5million new homes
England’s traditionally Conservative heartlands will have to find space for 1.5 million new homes under Government plans to introduce a ‘mutant’ planning algorithm.
The plans being considered by ministers could require tens of thousands of extra homes to be built over the next 15 years in rural counties like Kent, Surrey and Devon.
The proposals, which are said to be the brainchild of Boris Johnson’s top aide Dominic Cummings, have sparked widespread fury among Tory MPs amid fears of the south of England being ‘concreted’ over.
The initiative could see an additional five million homes built across England over the next 15 years, with nearly a third in rural counties.
According to analysis by the House of Commons library, that target would be two million more than what has already been agreed upon by local councils.
Tory MPs are calling on the Government to scrap the plans, with many lashing out at what they have described as a ‘mutant’ algorithm.
Writing for The Telegraph, Tory MP Bob Seely said: ‘We all agree we need to build housing, but we need to build the right housing in the right places.
‘The key fact is this: cities across England are being asked to build relatively less compared with the rural and suburban areas around them. Instead of levelling up the North, I fear we are concreting out the South’.
He continued: ‘The algorithm row, which will worsen the more our constituents across England know about it, is an unnecessary, self-inflicted wound.
‘Britons in the Red Wall seats will see little change in their communities as infrastructure cash goes to the shires. Shire voters will react with anger at swathes of greenfield planning.’
Crispin Truman, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England group, also spoke out against the plans.
He said: ‘Governing by algorithm simply doesn’t work. We are in the midst of a housing crisis, and we need many more well designed, genuinely affordable homes, including in rural areas.
‘But combining this algorithm with far reaching, untested reforms to local planning, could result in irreparable harm to our countryside, without delivering the housing we actually need.
‘Local authorities could be powerless to prevent developers cherry-picking green field sites whilst leaving brownfield land unused.’
While many urban areas and parts of the north of England would see their housebuilding requirements remain largely unchanged or even reduced, counties in the south of England could be hit hard.
For example, projections suggest just shy of 70,000 extra homes would be built in Kent, more than 45,000 in Surrey and almost 33,000 in Devon.
The Telegraph estimated that the 34 councils with local plans spanning the Home Counties are likely to see an average increase in housebuilding numbers of 104 per cent compared to what had already been agreed.
Meanwhile, some 13 of the 20 areas forecasted to see the largest increase are represented by Tory MPs.
The algorithm approach is being considered by the Government as it tries to deliver on its annual target of building 300,000 new homes.
It calculates new home requirements based on either the most up-to-date local annual household growth projection for the next decade or 0.5 per cent of the existing housing stock in the area. Whichever figure is higher would be adopted.
Local affordability of homes is then factored in as part of a drive to build more properties in areas where houses are less affordable.
The proposals are especially controversial because no limit would be put in place on the number of homes required.
A Government source told the Telegraph: ‘These figures are purely speculative.
‘We are consulting on the new proposed formula, which will only be the starting point in the process of planning new homes.’
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson today risked accusations of trying to distract from the algorithm row as he pledged to boost Britain’s natural beauty by committing to protect an area the size of the Lake District and South Downs.
Mr Johnson is due to make a promise to safeguard an extra 400,000 hectares of land in the next decade during a virtual event held by the United Nations.
The commitment will boost the amount of protected land, which includes national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, from 26 per cent of England to 30 per cent by 2030.
He is also due to sign a new United Nations pledge to help save the planet.