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Pickles retains grip on DCLG

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Eric Pickles has retained his role as communities secretary despite strong speculation he would be moved to a new brief in David Cameron’s ministerial reshuffle.

While shock changes so have far included the removal of William Hague as foreign secretary and Michael Gove as education secretary, Pickles confirmed today that he is to remain in post at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

‘Just spoken to the PM and I am very honoured to continue as secretary of state at DCLG,’ Pickles wrote on social-media website Twitter this morning.

Some sources had tipped Pickles to become the next Tory chief whip in the House of Commons, a role that has now been handed to Gove.

In his four-plus years as communities secretary Pickles has had the final say on a range of controversial planning applications – including John McAslan & Partners’ proposals for the redevelopment of London’s Smithfield Market,the refusal of which was announced last week.

AJ reported yesterday that Pickles’ decision to refuse permission for the scheme had been criticised as ‘ridiculous’ by City of London Corporation chairman of policy and resources Mark Boleat.

Pickles agreed with a planning inspector’s report that the mixed-use proposals would have ‘an extremely harmful effect’ on the Victorian market and its surrounding area and questioned the need for the 21,220m² of office space included in the scheme.

Boleat said he was particularly surprised that Pickles believed he had a better insight on demand for office space in the area than developer Henderson Global Investors.

While Pickles’ role remains unchanged, there have been other movements at DCLG.

Former planning minister Nick Boles leaves his brief for a minister of state role shared between the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education.

Meanwhile, Brandon Lewis has been promoted to minister of state at DCLG, with responsibility for housing and planning. He was previously undersecretary of state with responsibility for councils, pubs and fire services.

Penny Mordaunt was appointed parliamentary undersecretary of state with responsibility for coastal communities at DCLG in her first ministerial role.

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