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Housing Leaders Praise Labour’s Bold But “Pragmatic” Plans For Green Belt Homes

(Alamy)

3 min read

Leading figures in the housing sector and MPs have welcomed Keir Starmer’s announcement that a Labour government would overhaul the planning system to build new towns and houses across the country – including on the green belt.

Starmer put plans for building at the heart of his landmark Labour party conference speech in Liverpool on Tuesday. He described a planning system that “blocks out all light” and prevents the building of new homes. 

“Our Labour era will instead unleash the ‘big build’. And the winner this time will be working people, everywhere,” he said. 

In particular Starmer put forward bold proposals to build on less attractive parts of the green belt such as “dreary wasteland” and “disused car parks”, which he termed the ‘grey belt’. The Labour leader also pledged to build “the next generation of Labour new towns”.

Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, said the “pragmatic” plans could improve the life chances of millions of potential homeowners.

“Building new towns provides the opportunity to create high quality places with ambitious sustainability standards, much-needed affordable homes and better use of infrastructure,” she said. 

“It is also positive to see a pragmatic approach to reviewing the greenbelt which needs to be done strategically rather than the current piecemeal approach.

“The policies that have been announced should form part of a long-term plan for housing that is properly funded and aims to transform the health, economic security, and life chances of millions.”

Freddie Posser, Director of PricedOut, a campaign group for affordable housing, told PoliticsHome he was excited to see Starmer’s “passion” for building more homes, but said it was essential that they were built in areas people “actually want to live in”.

“Keir made all the right noises in the speech, but we look forward to scrutinising the detailed plans to ensure that these Georgian houses in gleaming new towns deliver what people up and down the country so desperately need," he said.

Labour has also said they would introduce “planning passports” to enable developers to get approval more quickly to build on Brownfield sites. The land would be primarily used to build high density housing stock.

Melanie Leech, Chief Executive of the British Property Federation, said billions of pounds of investment could be unlocked by accelerating the development of brownfield sites and that she was looking forward to discussing the details.

"Our members invest for the long term and the vision of a new generation of thriving new towns is one we support as part of a comprehensive strategy to build the homes and sustainable communities the country needs,” she added.

Developers themselves also welcomed the plans. “The proposals combine short-term actions and medium-term strategy which will knit together a system that is currently dysfunctional,” Mark Skilbeck, Planning Director at Taylor Wimpey said. 

David Thomas, Chief Executive at Barratt Developments, agreed that the current planning system was in need of reform. “We need certainty, consistency and a long-term approach to get Britain building the much-needed, high quality and energy efficient homes the country needs,” Thomas said. 

The plans were especially well received among Labour MPs. One Shadow Minister told PoliticsHome said Labour’s planning proposals would help young people but in particular families, after they claimed the current planning rules have prevented them from getting on the housing ladder. Mike Tapp, the Labour candidate for Dover and Deal, told PoliticsHome he liked the party’s approach to housing and said it was “important” to get houses built “in the right places and affordable for young people”.

The plans even received praise from Conservative MP and former levelling up secretary Simon Clarke. “The “green belt” isn’t all beautiful verdant land,” he said. “My party needs to respond to this challenge.”

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