Just before the election, Mishcon de Reya and Capital & Regional hosted two debates on the future of our town centres. The first was with Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government, Roberta Blackman-Woods, and the second with Housing and Planning Minister, Brandon Lewis.
Looking at the polls at the time, we had absolutely no premonition of how this 'bonkers' election would finally pan out. We listened carefully to Roberta Blackman-Woods outline Labour's plans to empower local authorities and wondered if we were in for further planning change. One thing that our audience was clear on was that, in planning terms, we needed certainty rather than further change. Both politicians agreed on the vital importance of empowering our local authorities to regenerate our town centres and high streets.
After the Brandon Lewis debate I reflected sadly that this could be the last of a number of useful dialogues we had been able to facilitate with the Minister during his time in office. Would he be back after the election to continue his good work?
At our Conservative party conference dinner last October, the Minister was challenged by Westminster City Councillor and Deputy Leader Robert Davis who suggested that the role of Housing Minister was generally used 'as a stepping stone to better things'. The Minister responded that he liked his job and would be happy to continue in it after 7 May! This turned out to be prescient as it has now been confirmed that he will indeed continue in the role.
It has been refreshing to have a minister responsible for the important portfolios of housing and planning with the practical and commercial experience of running a business and a local authority, who has been accessible to the property sector and prepared to listen to its issues. With the vital importance of finding solutions to the housing crisis acknowledged by all parties in their election campaigns, it would have been a step forward if the role of housing minister could have been elevated to a cabinet post to reflect this.
Please click here to read the full article published in the Estates Gazette.
Susan Freeman is a Partner in the Real Estate department.