Michael Gove, the controversial former education minister who criticised architects for wasting money on over-designed schools, has been named as the new environment minister
However, despite the Conservatives’ pledge to build 1 million new homes by the end of 2020, there is still no housing minister after the much-respected former incumbent Gavin Barwell lost his seat in last week’s general election.
Barwell has since become PM Theresa May’s new chief of staff, replacing outgoing advisers Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, who resigned on Saturday.
The appointment of Gove, a keen Brexiteer, to take on the DEFRA brief has raised eyebrows among some commentators, who point out that during his four-year tenure at the helm of the Department for Education he tried unsuccessfully to get climate change removed from the geography syllabus.
As well as his failed leadership bid last summer, Gove will be remembered most by the profession for claiming architects had ‘creamed off the cash’ during Labour’s school building drive and for his assault on the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, which he subsequently scrapped.
At the time of Gove’s departure from his education role, Simon Foxell of schools specialist Architects Practice said Gove had ‘merrily abused architects for his own political ends’, adding that it was ‘difficult to point to a serious bit of school architecture that has come out under his reign’.
Among his role as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Gove will be charged with lobbying for the United Kingdom in other international negotiations on sustainable development and climate change.
Bill Dunster of Zedfactory
’The countries which set the lowest environmental performance standards just continue making out-of-date and energy-guzzling construction components. This loses any chance of exporting to the EU common market which is showing strong leadership addressing both climate change and air pollution.
’So from a position where a mandatory (Code for Sustainable Homes) Code 6 would have given the UK early economies of scale and made us an international export market leader with new jobs created, we find ourselves sinking fast to the bottom of the pond. It is not too late to get back on track and nothing that strong, stable and, above all, well-informed leadership couldn’t sort out by just deleting a year of misinformed lobby correspondence from volume house builders.’
Elrond Burrell of VIA architecture
’It looks like Theresa May has gone all Trump about it - appointing those most likely to cause harm to the portfolio they get assigned. Next, we’ll see Tillerson and Gove walking hand in hand as the planet burns behind them.
’May’s position is simply not tenable and appointments like this make it unavoidably obvious’
‘In some ways, the bigger mess May can make of it, the quicker it will all be over. Her position is simply not tenable and appointments like this just make it unavoidably obvious.’
Julie Hirigoyen, chief Executive at UK-GBC
’The environment secretary will be a key post during the Brexit talks, especially as so much of our environmental legislation is tied to the EU. This Government must ensure that, after we leave the European Union, our environmental protections and climate policies are as strong as – or stronger than - they are today.’
Remember when Michael Gove tried to get climate change removed from English school curriuculums? Now he's Environment Secretary.— Mhairi Hunter (@MhairiHunter) June 11, 2017