Wednesday, 4 Aug 2021

Boris Johnson warned of ‘poll tax moment’ that toppled Thatcher by former Tory leader

Homes Under the Hammer: Martin discusses housing market

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The Prime Minister’s changes to planning permission in an effort to boost housing construction has been described as his “poll-tax moment”. Mrs Thatcher’s deeply unpopular poll tax was a single flat-rate per-capita tax on every adult, introduced in 1990, which sparked riots throughout the country. It was scrapped for the current council tax system just three years later.

Mr Johnson’s proposals see restrictions eased on where homes can be built, and reduce the amount of influence local communities have on planning permission.

Under the plan 300,000 homes will be built a year and automatic permission will be given for homes in new zones earmarked for growth.

Now Lord William Hague, former Tory party leader, warned Mr Johnson to ditch his proposed reforms to the planning system.

Referencing the Chesham and Amersham by-election on Thursday, which saw the Tory seat since 1974 turn to the Liberal Democrats, the Tory official said it served to “sound a warning”.

Local polling and the Lib Dems have suggested one of the key factors in the by-election was the proposed changes to planning, as well as HS2.

Writing in The Times, Lord Hague likened the row over planning to Mrs Thatcher’s poll tax.

He wrote: “While Chesham and Amersham is not much of a guide to future elections, it does sound a warning about issues that might become more national in scope, consuming the energy of ministers and becoming a spreading controversy around the country.

“In that respect, the furore over the planning white paper reminds me in some respects of the gathering fuss about the poll tax when I had that chat with Margaret Thatcher.

“That is not to argue that it will be such an all consuming issue or bring down a Prime Minister.

“But it has the ingredients of huge trouble ahead, not just in the southern shires but among northern Tories, most of whom live in their own pleasant suburbs and villages.

“They are not so different.”

Stanley Johnson, the Prime Minister’s father, also criticised Mr Johnson’s planning reforms.

He said to Times Radio: “I think we have to be tremendously careful before we push through planning reforms, which themselves may serve to undermine the very basis of our nature protection programmes.

“And I’m not convinced that telling the Horsham District Council, ‘Yes, you’ve got to build 1,000 houses’ or whatever it is, giving them no room to manoeuvre, is the way forward.”

Former Prime Minister Theresa May said the proposals were “ill-conceived” and “mechanistic” last year.

Labour will also challenge backbench Tory rebels to vote for its changes, which aim to provide better protections for communities to have their say over planning applications, to mark their opposition to the plans.


Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick backed the Prime Minister’s plans and insisted “property-owning democracy is one of the foundations of our country”.

He wrote in The Telegraph: “We have a duty to young people and families to help them get there, and benefit from the security and prosperity it can bring.

“The majority of people aspire to it, even if it seems a distant dream to many. We want to make that dream a reality.

Mr Jenrick also noted concerns around “good-quality homes”, “proper infrastructure”, and a desire to “protect spaces such as the green belt”.

He added: “We are listening. Many of these worries hinge on the fact that our current planning system is not trusted – it is seen as too complicated, too weighted in favour of big constructors to the exclusion of smaller housebuilders and local people. I agree.”

In the year ending April 2021, the average house price increased by 8.9 percent according to the Office of National Statistics.

Average house prices increased over the year in England to £268,000 or by 8.9 percent, in Wales to £185,000 or by 15.6 percent, in Scotland to £161,000 or by 6.3 percent, and in

Northern Ireland to £149,000 or by 6 percent.
According to Statista, a majority of homeowners in the UK are over 55 years old, with 19.6 percent of homeowners being between 55 and 64 and 36.3 percent being over 65.

Only 0.7 percent of people between 16 and 24 own their home, as well as 9 percent of 25 to 34 year olds and 14.4 percent of 35 to 44 year olds.

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