Amid widespread discontent over the rapid turnover of housing ministers under Theresa May’s administration, the latest incumbent to take on the post is a strong advocate of local control over planning matters with long experience of local government.

In an entry on his constituency website in February 2017, Kit Malthouse summed up his position on planning in these terms: “Planning should be something done with people, not to them, and being pro-local democracy is not to be against new houses. Distant bureaucrats don’t know the area and don’t live there; those that do should decide.”

Malthouse was elevated to the role of housing and planning minister earlier this week with just six months’ ministerial experience at the Department for Work and Pensions under his belt. He takes over the post from Dominic Raab, who succeeded David Davis as secretary of state responsible for Brexit. Raab was only in the housing post for six months and his predecessor, Alok Sharma, for seven.

Malthouse joined the Commons in 2015 when elected MP for North West Hampshire, which includes the local authority districts of Test Valley and Basingstoke and Deane. During last summer’s general election, local control over planning, alongside education and support for small businesses, was one of three “key missions” – along with education and support for small businesses – spelt out by Malthouse. He wrote: “When I was a local councillor, I learned just how frustrating it can be when you aren’t in total control of the planning decisions in your own patch. For an area like North West Hampshire, which is seeing a huge amount of house building, this is particularly important.”

He continued: “The answer is of course the neighbourhood plan. With these plans, the local community debates and decides where, and what kind of housing they want. Local people are supposed to be in control and it should mean no surprises.” In this context, he made no secret of his annoyance at what he called a planning inspector’s “idiotic” decision in March 2016 (DCS Number 200-004-795) to allow 85 houses in the village of Oakley, which he claimed rendered a neighbourhood plan due to go to a referendum just a week later largely pointless. His protestations on the case helped persuade the government to introduce what then planning minister Gavin Barwell termed the “Malthouse clause” in the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017, requiring decision-makers to have regard to post-examination neighbourhood plans.

In a Commons debate on the government’s housing white paper in February last year, Malthouse welcomed the government’s plans to standardise the calculation of housing supply for local authorities and went on to ask communities secretary Sajid Javid for confirmation that permission should never be granted outside the envelope of approved local and neighbourhood plans”.  “In my view, where a local authority has a valid local plan agreed, and a village in the same area has a valid neighbourhood plan, the planning inspector should have no powers whatsoever,” he told constituents last year.

However, other statements suggest that the new minister is no nimby. In December 2017, debating the Finance Bill, Malthouse spoke in favour of housebuilding as a means of stimulating the housing market. He stated: “The solution to the housing market will be a long-term one. We are trying to build as many houses as we possibly can—we need 250,000 to 300,000 houses a year to bridge the demand and supply problem—but that will take some time to do.”

Malthouse has set out his localist stall on other planning matters. In a Commons debate in June 2015, he secured assurances from energy secretary Amber Rudd that “worried communities” would not be overruled by PINS on controversial onshore wind applications.

In the same month, he insisted that shale gas applications should go through the normal planning process: “Local communities would therefore get a say about what the industry looks like in their area – if it appears at all.”

Going further back, Malthouse’s previous incarnation as a Westminster councillor, London Assembly member and deputy mayor may also offer some clues on his outlook on planning matters. Back in 2009, he backed the Prince of Wales’ criticisms of developer Qatari Diar’s plans to redevelop Chelsea Barracks in Westminster, describing the glass and steel structure proposed as “urban vandalism”. In 2014, he supported a consultants’ report urging mayor Boris Johnson to back boroughs’ bids to opt out of office-to-residential permitted development rights where it prevents “positive” reshaping of town centres.  In the same year, he was a signatory to a letter from the West End Partnership urging chancellor George Osborne to “reopen discussion” on how “greater local flexibility” on planning, including such matters as application fees, could help unlock future development and growth opportunities.

While commentators were reluctant to predict what distinctive stamp Malthouse will bring to his latest post, many voiced optimism that his London and local government experience of planning matters would allow him to at least hit the ground running. “It’s not necessarily a bad appointment from that perspective. Even though it’s a while since he was a local councillor, that kind of experience stays with you,” said Ian Anderson, executive director at consultancy Iceni Projects. “He’s spent a lot of time in local government and that will stand him in good stead in understanding how planning works,” agreed Steve Turner, director of communications at lobby group the Home Builders Federation.

Katie Gabriel, an account executive at communications consultants Curtin & Co, said the breadth of Malthouse’s political experience made it reasonable to expect that he understands, or is at least aware of, the different types of planning constraints in inner city and rural areas. “His background in local government, particularly in a demanding area like Westminster, gives him the ideal footing needed to begin his new role,” she suggested. Housing secretary James Brokenshire’s recent comments on the important role of local councils and communities in development, she added, suggests the two ministers hold “complementary views on housing which will hopefully lead to an effective working relationship”.

In a statement issued by MHCLG this morning, Malthouse said he was “delighted” to have been appointed the new housing and planning minister, adding: “Building the homes this country needs is a top priority for this government. I am keen to build on the real progress that has been made and start working with the sector so we can deliver more homes, restore the dream of home ownership and build a housing market fit for the future.”

Kit Malthouse – political CV

1998: Elected as a member of Westminster City Council, serving as Conservative group chief whip, chairman of social services, deputy leader and cabinet member for finance before standing down in 2006.

2008: Elected as London Assembly member for the West Central seat, serving as Boris Johnson’s deputy mayor for policing and vice-chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority. 2012: Re-elected to London Assembly, serving as Johnson’s deputy mayor for business and enterprise.

2015: Elected MP for North West Hampshire with a 58 per cent share of the vote, taking over from former planning minister Sir George Young.

2017: Re-elected as MP on a 62 per cent share of the poll.

January 2018: Appointed parliamentary under-secretary at the Department for Work and Pensions with responsibilities including financial support for housing.

July 2018: Appointed housing and planning minister, including responsibility for planning policy, casework oversight and supporting the secretary state on housing supply and policy and delivery.