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Gavin Barwell replaces Brandon Lewis as housing and planning minister

Gavin Barwell MP
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Little-known Croydon MP Gavin Barwell has become housing and planning minister, replacing Brandon Lewis who moves to the Home Office after just two years

Barwell, who announced yesterday (17 July) he had been handed the housing role together with the position of minister for London, is a former parliamentary private secretary to one-time communities secretary Greg Clark.

After graduating from Trinity College, Cambridge with a degree in Natural Sciences in 1993, he worked in the Conservative Central Office until he was elected MP for Croydon Central in 2010.

Barwell does not appear to have any housing, design or development background – though he lists urban policy among his interests.

It is presumed Barwell will inherit the ‘architecture policy’ brief which Lewis was given in May 2015 when ministerial oversight for architecture passed from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

The housing and planning minister role was effectively created for Lewis (pictured) in 2014 when he was given joint responsibility for the positions previously held by former housing minister Kris Hopkins and ex-planning minister Nick Boles. 

The housing minister position has never been given full cabinet status by either the Labour or Conservative administrations in modern times and has rarely been filled for long.

Before Hopkins the position was occupied for just 13 months by former Knight Frank surveyor Mark Prisk, who took over following Grant Shapps’ two-year stint.

Welcoming Barwell’s appointment, David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said: ’Housing associations look forward to working with him in partnership to tackle the country’s housing deficit.

’The priority now must be to ensure the supply of new homes does not falter and housing associations are well placed to step in and keep Britain building.’

Meanwhile Andrew Percy, MP for Brigg and Goole, has confirmed on his website that he has been appointed as DCLG minister responsible for the Northern Powerhouse, replacing James Wharton.

At the Department for Transport, new secretary of state Chris Grayling is joined by John Hayes as minister of state – effectively the department’s number two – while Blackpool North and Clevelyes MP Paul Maynard has been named rail minister following the resignation of Claire Perry.

Comment

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders
The Government has rightly identified housing as one of the greatest challenges facing this country and having reaffirmed its commitment to building one million new homes over the course of this parliament, Barwell is assuming an important position at a critical juncture. Brexit presents a challenge to the house building industry, and it will require bold leadership if the progress that has been made over the last few years isn’t to be lost as a result of any sense of uncertainty within our sector. Momentum must be maintained.

Barwell is assuming an important position at a critical juncture

’It’s encouraging that Barwell has previous experience in the Department for Communities and Local Government as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Greg Clark, who has been a great champion of local house builders. Barwell’s predecessor Brandon Lewis similarly understood the significance of reviving the SME house building sector if the Government is to achieve its housing targets, both by increasing volume and speeding up build out rates. It’s of vital importance that Barwell continues with the positive legacy Lewis left behind, which saw house building completion figures rise and a range of initiatives introduced aimed at empowering smaller developers.

’SMEs are nevertheless still at a serious disadvantage in this country with far too many struggling to access the finance they need to build and hampered by a planning system that all too often places the same requirements on small developments as it does for larger ones. More needs to be done to overcome these constraints. With a new Prime Minister in place, now is perhaps the time to start thinking about more radical solutions to the housing crisis, including enabling local authorities to fund house building by lifting borrowing caps. Local house builders are ready to play a much larger role in getting Britain building again, and we look forward to working with the new Housing Minister in identifying how SMEs can help him achieve this.’

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