Written by Hannah Anderson
Senior Account Executive
On Tuesday 13th June 2017, Alok Sharma was appointed as Housing and Planning Minister at the Department of Communities and Local Government, following the snap General Election, which saw Gavin Barwell lose his seat in Croydon Central, and consequently, lose his Housing and Planning Ministerial Position.
As Housing and Planning Minister, Mr Sharma will be responsible for housing supply and home ownership policy, planning policy, estate regeneration, Neighbourhood Planning Bills and private rented sector regulation.
Who is Alok Sharma?
Alok Sharma was first elected as an MP for Reading West in 2010, and since that time has held a number of ministerial aide roles, including Foreign Office Minister for Asia and the Pacific and Parliamentary Private Secretary for the Treasury Select Committee. His parliamentary focus has typically aligned with trade, industry and finance, and has never previously expressed a specific interest in housing policy.
Mr Sharma was previously a chartered accountant for Deloitte before moving into corporate finance advisory for cross-border mergers and acquisitions, listings and restructurings. He served as the Chairman of think tank, Bow Group’s Economic Affairs Committee, and the Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party with special responsibilities for Black and Minority Ethnic communities.
Previous Votes & Comments on Housing Matters
Within his constituency, he has worked alongside local campaign groups to oppose “unsustainable development” in the area, particularly on green space and scaling back housing plans, and has previously criticised West Berkshire Council’s Local Plan for approving a number of sites for development that were not brownfield.
He generally votes in line with the Government on housing and planning issues, and has consistently voted in favour of cutting housing-related benefits, including removing council tax concessions for those in financial need, and in favour of the bedroom tax. However, he has also consistently voted for charging higher earners the private market value for renting a council owned property.
He has also previously been critical of the Government’s housing targets and empathised the role of local communities in development and planning. Importantly, he previously supported reforming the planning system, and stated during a debate of the Localism Act 2011’s passage that “local communities recognise the need for more housing, but they want new houses to be built in a manner that is sustainable, that provides the infrastructure to support local residents and, above all, that gives them a real say in how their communities look and feel.”
He also stated that “Despite the clear wishes of local communities and local councils, the local view is that developers eventually ram through inappropriate developments on appeal.”
Many in the property industry are calling on Alok Sharma to implement the proposals in the Housing White Paper as soon as possible to revitalise the Small and Medium Enterprise house building sector and bring forward the much-needed housing. Given this mixed approach to housing in the face of already huge pressures on housing targets, it will be interesting to see the direction that Mr Sharma will take Housing Policy and Planning, and if he will indeed enact on the Housing White Paper as quickly as many hope.