The Landscape Institute responds to the Prime Minister’s Cabinet reshuffle on 15 September 2021, in which Michael Gove became Secretary of State at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG)

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The Landscape Institute (LI) has responded to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s 2021 cabinet reshuffle, in which Michael Gove was appointed as Secretary of State at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

The LI has worked closely with the Secretary of State in the past, most recently during his stint as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and welcomes the appointment. Mr Gove will bring with him a wealth of experience and political weight at a time when the built environment sector needs ambitious leadership.

Shadow minister for housing from 2005 to 2007, Mr Gove became education secretary in 2010, a position he held for four years. Between 2017 and 2019, as environment secretary, Mr Gove delivered important consultations and projects on biodiversity net gain, and was a driving force behind the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.

‘This is a vital time for both the natural and built environments’, said Sue Morgan, Chief Executive of the LI. ‘Having a minster who understands the value of nature and has the political clout to drive change will be key. We need real leadership in this area to address the climate and biodiversity crises and deliver positive planning reforms. The Institute looks forward to working closely with Mr Gove on this incredibly important brief.’

Mr Gove arrives at MCHLG during a hectic period, with the progress of long-awaited planning reforms stymied by considerable internal party resistance. Translating the vision of the Planning White Paper into deliverable policy will be difficult, and with the Chesham and Amersham by-election living fresh in the party’s memory, we may see a considerable delay to the Planning Bill – or even an outright scrapping.

Some of Mr Gove’s comments and achievements in previous roles may help signal his policy intent for MHCLG. Mr Gove recently hailed the work of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, saying: ‘We need to revive the garden city approach of the past by making places cherishable and desirable to live in.’ As environment secretary, he drove some forward-thinking policy initiatives, ranging from banning plastic straws to curbing the ivory trade.

At such a crucial time for our sector, we will continue to work closely with the department, ensuring the new minster and his team are aware of the key role landscape practitioners can play in building back greener.

Other appointments

With Cristopher Pincher remaining in post as housing minister, there is some semblance of continuity in the department. The minister, who attended our Place and Health CPD event last year, has highlighted placemaking and good design as key to his remit.

Neil O’Brien MP has been made Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the MHCLG. Having previously advised on the government’s levelling up agenda, he will be expected to continue this role in a more formal capacity. Saffron Walden’s MP Kemi Badenoch has also joined MCHLG as Minister for Levelling Up, the government’s flagship development policy.

At the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Nadine Dorries has replaced Oliver Dowden as Culture Secretary. Dorries, the MP for Mid-Bedfordshire, was promoted from her former position as Minister of Mental Health for the Department of Health and Social Care. She will play a role in several pertinent policy areas including heritage, leisure and sport.

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