The Government remains committed to building 300,000 new homes a year in England despite revising the way targets are calculated, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has said.
Mr Jenrick said the methodology used by councils in their local plan-making process is being “updated” following a furious backlash from Conservative MPs.
Former prime minister Theresa May was among senior Tories warning that the computer-based formula proposed by the Government in August would lead to large swathes of southern England being “concreted over”.
Mr Jenrick said the changes to the methodology used to determine roughly how many homes should be built in each council area reflect concerns that more investment should be directed to the North and Midlands, with new development concentrated on brownfield sites.
He said it will enable office and retail space in urban centres to be repurposed for housing in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have made a very clear commitment to build a million homes over the course of this parliament and to get housebuilding in this country up to 300,000 (a year),” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“People understandably wanted more homes to be built in urban areas on brownfield land first to protect the countryside because that is where the transport infrastructure is – the jobs and opportunities – and it is the most environmentally sustainable way to build.
“Secondly, they wanted to try to use housing to the extent that you can to push private sector investment into the cities of the Midlands and the North as part of our commitment to levelling up.
“That is what we have done in this update to the methodology. We are going to provide them with more resources for regeneration and brownfield land remediation.”
Former Cabinet minister Damian Green – who was among those campaigning against the “notorious algorithm” used in the plan-making process – welcomed the change.
“Delighted that the Government has listened and changed the notorious housing algorithm. Good news for Ashford, and indeed the whole of Kent. We needed some,” he tweeted.
The changes aim to encourage more building in the nation’s 20 largest cities to help revitalise high streets in the recovery from the coronavirus crisis that has hammered retailers.
Ministers will also revise the “80/20” rule that guides funding to ensure it is not concentrated in London and south-east England.
There will be a new £100 million “brownfield land release fund” to promote urban regeneration and development on public sector land.
Ministers are also allocating more than £67 million in funding to the West Midlands and Greater Manchester authorities to deliver new homes.