Following the promotion of former planning minister Nick Boles to Minister of State for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, as well as the Department for Education yesterday (July 15th), the coalition government has named his successor as Brandon Lewis.
Lewis, however, will not simply be taking on his predecessors' responsibilities - and for the first time in five years, the UK will see the ministries of both housing and planning combined into a single position.
In this article, we'll provide a brief overview as to what this step can tell us about the coalition's intentions for both housing and residential development, as well how the appointment is likely to be received in the property sector and beyond.
A farewell to Boles
There's likely to be a mixed bag of feelings around the departure of Boles, whose progressive stance on development and subsequent planning reforms were welcomed by many in the construction and property sectors. However, his strategy proved something of a double-edged sword - angering rural residents, and fellow Conservative voters alike.
Indeed, back in May one life-long Tory voter urged the former minister to apologise for costing Neil Carmichael, MP for Stroud, Gloucestershire, his seat in the next election, as well as Conservative MPs in marginal seats throughout the UK.
While Boles acknowledged the "huge amount of upset" the reforms he spearheaded had caused, he would not back down - stating that these would "ultimately lead to good things" in terms of increasing drastically-needed housing supply.
And Boles remained steadfast to the last - with one of his final interventions in his previous role being to block a London borough council's bid to prevent unused office space being turned into homes.
What Brandon Lewis brings to the table
Brandon Lewis, MP for Great Yarmouth, is set to become the fourth housing minister in three years - moving upwards from his previous position the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). He previously dealt with wide-ranging responsibilities including fire services, high streets, travellers and local pubs.
The consolidation of both housing and planning portfolios has elevated him to the position of Minister of State, where he is likely to work closely with Eric Pickles and have a greater influence on policy. This step could signal a growing recognition of Britain's ever-growing housing shortfall by the coalition and it wouldn't be completely unexpected to see further action in this area in the near future.
He may also bring a unique perspective to the table, with his register of interests stating that he was previously a private landlord. It'll also be interesting to see if and how his previous work on the nation's high streets will influence policy - given Eric Pickles' agenda being somewhat at odds with Mary Portas' reviews on the future of Britain's town-centre stores.
Do you think Boles' replacement will herald a new direction for housing and planning in the UK? Or will it just be more of the same. As always, we love to hear what you have to say, so be sure to leave us a comment below or let us know on Twitter.
And if you're looking for support with a planning application, stakeholder consultation, or any advice on a property PR or development issue - we've achieved great successes for a range of clients in the property sector, so don't hesitate to get in touch today.