Labour backs green belt developments to help housing crisis


Labour leader Keir Starmer has said the party would prioritise housebuilding if voted into power, giving local authorities and residents more power to build new homes on green belt land.

In an interview with The Times this morning Starmer said Labour would restore housebuilding targets — recently abandoned by the current government. He is expected to deliver a similar message in a speech to the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) later today.

Starmer pointed out that housebuilding was on course to fall to the lowest level since the Second World War and accused the Conservatives of killing “the aspiration of homeowners for a whole generation”. 

Characterising the Labour party as ‘builders’ rather than ‘blockers’ Starmer says he wants to see planning reformed, relaxing restrictions on the green belt as well as making it easier to build infrastructure for new housing developments.

However he stressed this needs to be done with in consultation with local communities, who should have input into both the location of new housing developing and the type of housing. 

He pointed out that under the current system some developments are for “expensive executive housing” that might not suit local needs. 

Starmer said: “We need to have that discussion [about building on the green belt]. But it cannot be reduced to a simple discussion of will you or will you not build on the green belt. This is why it’s important for local areas to have the power to decide where housing is going to be.

“Very often the objections that people have to housebuilding on the green belt are valid because the control by landowners and developers mean that the houses are proposed in areas where it’s quite obvious that there’s going to be a local concern. Give local authorities, local areas more power to deice where it will be and you alleviate the at problem.”

His comments received a cautious approval from the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, which for many years have been at the forefront of objecting to green belt developments. While the group says it still wanted to seen brownfield developments prioritised, its director of campaign and policy Tom Fyans says: “Keir Starmer is absolutely right to say developers and landowners need to be prevented from deliberately slowing the rate at which they build houses to drive up prices – local authorities need more control to direct housebuilding where it is most needed.

“And he’s bang on when he says targeting the green belt for ‘expensive executive housing’ upsets local communities because that’s not the homes that are needed. We’re facing a bona fide housing crisis, with an entire generation effectively priced out of home ownership. What’s more, far too many people are barely able to afford their rent.

“A sustained period of social housebuilding is the only practical way to deliver the truly affordable homes we so desperately need, including in rural areas.”

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