Council leader denies accusation by MP amid overdevelopment fears

Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas

Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas believes the 'political ambitions' of the Havering Council leader mean potential new housing targets won't be resisted. - Credit: Jon Cruddas' Office

The leader of Havering Council has denied an accusation made by Jon Cruddas that he will be too politically ambitious to block building targets set by central government.

Speaking at a recent meeting of Preserve, the anti-overdevelopment group chaired by the Dagenham and Rainham representative, Mr Cruddas said he thinks Cllr Damian White will comply with housing demands and turn South Hornchurch into "a dumping ground for Whitehall targets".

Cllr White has denied the accusations, however, branding it "bad form" of the MP to make "this baseless claim".

This comes as planning law changes are set to be mooted by government, Mr Cruddas said, claiming the details will feature in the next Queen's speech on May 11. 

The current law sees Havering's housing targets set out in the Mayor Sadiq Khan's London Plan, the latest version of which has been released in recent weeks.

Under this five-year plan, the borough's target increased from 1,170 to 1,285 units/year over ten years - a jump of 10 per cent. 

Should the law change, such targets could be stipulated by government, which Preserve claims is bad news.

South Hornchurch councillor Graham Williamson claimed that should these reforms materialise, Havering's target would ramp up to 2,666 units/year - effectively putting the borough on "steroids", he said.

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Mr Cruddas said: "The political ambitions of the council leader mean he won't resist those demands."

In response to the Recorder's request for comment, Cllr White said: "Throughout my time on the council I have fought for appropriate housing levels for Havering. I don't believe such hugely increased targets are suitable for areas like ours.

"The way to ease the burden, in my view, is to build new towns - something I have made clear to the secretary of state. I want the right type of regeneration for Havering."

In response to Cllr Williamson's claims, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “Following consultation last year, we have changed the method to increase local housing need in our 20 most populated urban areas to enable the delivery of 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s whilst continuing to protect the Green Belt and making the best use of brownfield and urban centre land.”

They added the change of method set out in December will only apply once the next London Plan is being developed.