Housing secretary Michael Gove confirmed the Renters Reform Bill is on track for its second reading in parliament, despite recent rumours it was likely to be postponed.

During a Centre for Policy Studies fringe event attended by Property Week at the Conservative Pary Conference yesterday (1 October), Gove said the Renters Reform Bill will pass through the house this autumn – a statement likely to be welcomed as many in the industry have warned that recent reports of further delay to the bill will deter investment.

However, Gove’s confirmed the government intends to go ahead with its timetable for the legislation as planned, despite speculation over delays from backbench MPs who spoke to the Financial Times.

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, also attended the session. On social media channel X he wrote: “The backbench concerns of rental reform is not the view of government, says @michaelgove with second reading in the autumn. Delighted to hear him speak so strongly on the need for responsible #landlords and @NRLAssociation campaigning.”

Gove also said he wanted to give local authorities a greater “degree of freedom” to adopt their own local plans, provided they are able to deliver upon them.

“One of my big problems has been that lots of local authorities haven’t adopted plans,” Gove said. “All we’ve done is say to local authorities that we know in some cases you will want to see specifically the green belt protected and additionally that other areas of environmental or aesthetic value are protected.

“You can absolutely do that. What you can’t do, is use that as a way to of evading all responsibility to build homes.”

Following the government’s announcement that 55 town centres will receive £20m endowment-style funds each over the next 10 years, Gove said the local authorities should receive the same freedom to use the funding, but also “a greater degree of transparency and accountability”.

“We’re introducing a new office for local government, so that meaningful comparisons can be drawn. But if there is failure, we must intervene.”

The housing secretary also discussed the party’s target to build 300,000 new homes per year, while acknowledging only 240,000 homes had been built in the past year.

He said: “The biggest impediment to that has been interest rates and the pressures on mortgages and rents. That’s why we have to get interest rates down. For the future I think we should continue to show the level of ambition that we’ve wanted to show in the past.

“I don’t think it’s good enough to hit people over the head with a target – you need to bring people with you. Rather than attempting to force people into a straitjacket, it’s important to argue that development enhances the quality of life. And if it’s the right sort of development, it is something that will be welcomed.”

He also went on to discuss the importance of “quality and beauty” in new homes, and the negative impact nutrient neutrality laws have on housing development.

On nutrient neutrality, Gove said the laws cause “a total freeze on development, particularly housing development”.

“New housing contributes a tiny amount to the nutrient load. In every case it’s not the houses, it’s not the bricks and mortar that contribute to the nutrient load, it’s us. It’s waste water, wherever we are, we’re going to produce it.”