Michael Gove’s “London-centric” building policies are anti-driver and will fail to deliver the homes the country needs, the boss of a top British developer has claimed.
Matthew Pratt, chief executive of FTSE 250 house builder Redrow, criticised the Levelling Up Secretary’s proposed rules for “beautiful” designs as single-minded and impractical, arguing that restrictions on off-street parking will end up backfiring.
In an interview with The Telegraph, he also claimed house building had become a “political football” and called for the setting of national housing targets to be handed to a new independent body rather than ministers.
His comments come as Mr Gove is seeking to push through changes to the planning system through a Levelling Up Bill that is making its way through Parliament.
Among other things the bill would require councils to put in place local design codes for housing, based on national guidance that urges them to ensure parking does not “dominate the local environment” and spoil the appearance of streets.
The guidance instead praises “efficient” shared parking areas, where homeowners do not get their own space, catering for “the average rather than the maximum level of car ownership”.
It is part of Mr Gove’s efforts to stop developers building generic-looking neighbourhoods, with the Levelling Up Secretary keen for them to instead follow the lead of schemes such as Poundbury, the King’s development in Dorchester.
But Mr Pratt criticised the plans, saying developers were best-placed to know what their customers want from housing and that schemes such as Poundbury – where parking is provided in back-of-property parking courts – ignored people’s preferences.
He said: “Many of the ideas are London-centric and sometimes what people want is different.
“The customer is the one who actually has to live in that home – they don’t want their car to be three miles down the road, they want to park outside their house, off the roads.”
He pointed to past schemes where councils insisted on restricting off-street parking, in an attempt to discourage car ownership, only for streets to become cluttered with vehicles anyway.
Even at Poundbury – one of Mr Gove’s most-cited developments – the lack of driveways has simply resulted in many people parking their cars in front of their homes on the street, Mr Pratt said.
“You just get cars everywhere, because you can’t just say to somebody ‘You’re only having one parking space and that’s it, and therefore you’ll sell your other car’”, Mr Pratt added.