The loss of Garvin Barwell as an MP, and consequently as Housing Minister at DCLG, was a significant loss to the development industry. Regardless of any politics or policy decisions he was widely respected as having a thorough understanding of the brief.
He was one of the many Conservative MPs and candidates to fall victim to the almost entirely unpredicted surge in the Labour vote across the capital.
As he departed, leading housing figures were complimentary about his time in the role.
Angela Lockwood, deputy chair of umbrella group Placeshapers, said: “I think it’s a blow to the sector. We’d developed a great working relationship with Gavin. He was a very good housing minister.”
On Twitter, the Chartered Institute of Housing said: “Hope whoever replaces him shows similar commitment to listen to the sector and work with us.”
The industry can take some solace from the fact that Gavin has been appointed as the new Chief of Staff to Theresa May. This is perhaps one of the most, if not the most, influential role in the political landscape and those in the know think it’s already had a significant impact on how Theresa May presents and carries herself in meetings with party colleagues, including in front of the hugely important 1922 Committee.
Barwell also seems to have had a significant role in the appointments made during the reshuffle this week. We can hope that given his obvious passion for tackling the housing crisis, the issue is given a proper platform at the heart of Number 10.
You may be forgiven for not knowing much, or anything, about the new Planning and Housing Minister, Alok Sharma MP. He is a popular and respected Member of Parliament for Reading West. His background is in finance and he has held a junior position in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Mr Sharma is certainly well liked among the Conservative MPs and considered very competent.
Yet the development industry may be slightly nervous given the only announcements made to date by the new Minister on any planning matters has been to object to ‘unsustainable development in Reading’.
There have been six different Housing Ministers since 2010, and Mr Sharma will be the third in the three years since Planning and Housing was combined. On past form, Mr Sharma won’t have long to get things moving. However, there is a good chance that the new Housing and Planning Minister will be able to get a sympathetic hearing within Downing Street given his predecessor’s presence there.