The NIMBY in Number 10

Rishi Sunak has a textbook NIMBY sat in Number 10

A photo of the door of Number 10 Downing Street

Michael Gove recently announced new brownfield funding for London to increase housing delivery in London, earmarking a paltry £175m across the capital to reverse the housing start slowdown. Gove commissioned an independent report into the London Plan, titled the Housebuilding in London: London Plan Review, which has been published on 13 February 2024. The report considered what specific changes could be made to the London Plan to facilitate the increased delivery of new homes on brownfield sites in the capital against the backdrop of faltering starts.

The report accepted that nobody disputes that London is experiencing a significant housing crisis. In highlighting the consequences of housing under-delivery, it accepts the issues has wide felt economic, societal and personal impacts for Londoners. Current housing undersupply has been recognised as forcing people into homelessness or poor quality rental accommodation.

The London Plan Review suggests that both private and public stakeholders were clear in the view that the London Plan is not the sole source of the issues facing housing supply. Other factors including macroeconomic factors, fire safety, statutory consultees, infrastructure constraints, viability difficulties, and planning resource pressures – are all deemed to have contributed to the housing start woes.

Conclusions drawn from the report centered around a “strong presumption in favour of residential development on brownfield sites”. It argues such change to be an effective and worthwhile way of making it much more likely that the Plan would facilitate delivery of new homes, in which it set out the following presumption wording:

The Presumption

“For qualifying local planning authorities, there is a strong presumption in favour of granting planning permission for proposals which comprise or include residential development on Brownfield (Previously developed) land.

Qualifying local planning authorities are those where the net housing completions since 2019/20 have fallen below the cumulative annualised total of their Table 4.1 ten-year target.

The presumption does not apply to sites which are in the Green Belt or Metropolitan Open Land or a Strategic Industrial Location.

In the case of proposals which would cause harm to the significance of a designated heritage asset, the presumption only applies where any such harm is clearly outweighed by the public benefits of the proposals.

Where it applies, the presumption means granting planning permission as quickly as possible unless the benefits of doing so would be significantly and demonstrably outweighed by any adverse impacts which would arise from not according with policies in this plan.

In applying the presumption substantial weight is to be given to the benefits of delivering homes.”

The report states the London Plan’s ten-year housing targets between 2019/20 – 2028/29 at around 52,300 per annum. This is less than the 66,000 homes assessed in the London SHMA, while much less than the Standard Method figure for London calculated by Lichfield’s at 98,822. To note, we are already four years into the Plan with net additional housing numbers averaging below 38,000. On current London Plan projections, against the lower figure and accounting for under delivery, the residual target is required to be over 62,300 per year up to 2028/29.

The politics surrounding this from the Conservatives have been quite something as the London Mayoral Election looms large in May. Desperate to try and reclaim credibility on the topic of housing, Gove has published these reports in an attempt to blame Sadiq for London’s housing undersupply, with the report alleging the London Plan “now works to frustrate rather than facilitate the delivery of new homes”.

Previously the London Plan was argued to threaten the “character of our city” by Conservative London Assembly Member, Andrew Boff, who was thrown out of Tory Party conference over comments he made following Suella Braverman’s remarks on trans rights. Boff had described the London Plan as a “war on the suburbs”, despite the planning inspectorate watering down Sadiq’s originally proposed targets from 65,000 to 52,000.

Despite no support from the Conservatives on adopting the London Plan, who failed to fight against these reductions, some may find Gove’s swipe at Sadiq Khan laughable. What is more laughable is that the very urban authorities trying to build more homes since taking power is Barnet Council, now Labour. Yet there is one career politician, currently a Harrow Conservative Councillor, who despite working as a Political Advisor to Number 10, seems to consistently undermine Gove’s position.

Cllr Ameet Jogia, prospective parliamentary candidate for the Conservatives for Hendon, has strongly opposed large scale development next to Colindale Station. Running on a ticket of “Stop Overdevelopment”. Ironically the Anti-ULEZ campaigner believes that blocking the Broadwalk Shopping Centre scheme, which is slap bang next to Edgeware Station, would lead to cleaner air. This contradicts research that shows increasing housing density around transport hubs, such as Edgware Station, reduces carbon emissions, primarily due to people opting to take public transport and living in more energy efficient homes.

Jogia has also described the 29-storey tower plans for Broadwalk as “utterly ludicrous”. Crying out against the Labour Council and asking “how can our Labour Council approve so many towers which are completely out of character with the area”. Jogia claims the plans to build “concrete high-rise flats threatens to eradicate what was once the heart of our community”. Planning appeal analysis from Gove’s recently commissioned report showed that one of the main issues found by planning inspectors of objections to the London Plan was claims made against development that affected the “character and appearance of area”.

Yet here we have a Conservative Councillor, with an MBE for political and public services as an aide to Lord Dolar Popat, exercising the exact behaviours that have led to London’s housing undersupply. An advisor to Rishi Sunak since December 2022, Jogia epitomizes the complete joke shop the Conservatives have become. Career politicians who have been members of a party since they were 16, only ever working in politics, campaigning against housing in the area they grew up despite being under the age of 40.

What is more eye opening is Jogia’s Harrow Council declarations, namely an advisory consultant to London Inns Stratford Ltd, which is part of the TLC Group. A family owned developer in the healthcare, hospitality, and residential sectors whose directors include Lady Sandhya Popat – wife of Lord Popat.  The family owned “developer, operator, and private equity company based in London” states on its websites it specializes in “high-end developments”. For someone who is so virulently NIMBY, being an “advisory consultant” to a real estate developer can only be described as weapons-grade hypocrisy. It would appear the CEO is one of Lord Popat’s sons, Paavan Popat.

The limited company on his declaration can only be assumed to relate to a hotel asset in Stratford, Newham – “close to the Olympic Park”. It is not clear what expertise Jogia provides Popat’s family as an advisory consultant, but one thing is for sure – Rishi Sunak has a textbook NIMBY sat in Number 10, someone who acts in the exact manner Gove’s own report highlights as one of the main issues causing delays to much needed housing supply to the capital.

Left Foot Forward contacted Ameet Jogia inviting him to respond to this article. We had not received a response at the time of publication.

Christopher Worrall is a housing columnist for LFF. He is on the Executive Committee of the Labour Housing Group, Co-Host of the Priced Out Podcast, and Chair of the Local Government and Housing Member Policy Group of the Fabian Society. 

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