NORTH Somerset Council's Executive councillors have responded positively to recent announcements from the new Secretary of State for levelling up, housing and communities, Michael Gove.

Councillors have previously voiced their concerns about the impact that current government housing targets would have on North Somerset and the government has now announced it will consult on further proposed changes to the planning system.

Following publication of a draft plan earlier this year and the feedback received from local consultation on that plan, the council had already started to revise its proposals for delivering the needed housing, employment and infrastructure while taking into account what should be protected in the local area.

Cllr Steve Bridger, leader of the Council, said: “We welcome the government's recent announcements and are pleased that Mr Gove seems to agree with us that we need greater flexibility to ensure that enough of the right homes are built in the right places with the right infrastructure, and that local representatives are best placed to decide the appropriate scale of new development and identify where – and where not – to place that development.

"At face value Mr Gove’s proposals appear to reflect our concerns, but we now need to understand the details. This means that it will take a little longer than we previously expected to publish our next draft as we'll need to respond to Mr Gove’s consultation and consider his response.”

Cllr Mark Canniford, executive member responsible for planning, added: "The most important outcome is a plan that is robust, responsive and which can be fully supported, so we will continue to work on the plan so we are ready to publish a final version for consultation as soon as we are able. In reality, in order for our plan to be as strong as it can be, ready for examination, this is now not likely to be until later next year."

Conservative MPs appeared divided on the issue of housing targets last week, as a watered-down Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill cleared all its stages in the House of Commons.

The controversial Bill’s progress was delayed last month as nearly 60 Tory rebels had pledged to back a plan to ban mandatory targets in England.

In a bid to put down the rebellion last week, Communities Secretary Michael Gove agreed to effectively water down local housing targets, making them advisory rather than mandatory and with policy proposals now expected to be consulted upon before Christmas.