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‘Decisive reform’ needed in planning system, Chancellor Reeves says

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  • 08/07/2024
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‘Decisive reform’ needed in planning system, Chancellor Reeves says
Chancellor Rachel Reeves (pictured) has unveiled her strategy for planning system reform, adding that it was leaving projects “tied up for years and years”.

In her maiden speech today, Reeves said: “Nowhere is decisive reform needed more urgently than in the case of our planning system; planning reform has become a byword for political timidity in the face of vested interests and a graveyard of economic ambition.

“Our antiquated planning system leaves too many important projects tied up for years and years in red tape before shovels even get in the ground. We promised to put planning reform at the centre of our political argument, and we did. We said we would grasp the mettle of planning reform, and we are doing so today.”

Reeves said that the government would reform the national planning policy framework, which had been a key measure in its manifesto, and would be “consulting on a new growth-focused approach to the planning system before the end of the month”.

She added that it would restore mandatory housing targets and create a new taskforce to “accelerate stalled housing sites” across the country, starting in Liverpool, Worcester, Northstowe and Sutton Caulfield, where 14,000 homes will be unlocked.

Reeves reiterated that Labour would support local authorities with an additional 3,000 planning officers across the country.

Deputy PM and Chancellor will take ‘interventionist approach’ in planning system

She said that putting growth at the centre of the planning system means that there would need to be changes to the “way that ministers use our powers for direct intervention”.

Reeves noted that the deputy Prime Minister and housing secretary Angela Rayner will “not hesitate to review an application where the potential gain for the regional and national economies warrant it”, adding later when asked by journalists that the government would “take an interventionist approach to make sure that we’ve got the housing mix that our country needs, that our people need”.

The deputy Prime Minister will also write to local mayors and to the Office for Investment to “ensure that any investment opportunity with important planning considerations that comes across their desks is brought to her attention and also to mine”.

Rayner will also write to local planning authorities “making clear what will now be expected of them, including universal coverage of local plans and reviews of greenbelt boundaries”.

“These will prioritise brownfield and grey belt land for development to meet housing targets where needed, and our golden rules will make sure that the development this frees up will allow us to deliver the thousands of affordable homes too, including more for social rent,” she added.

Planning system reform will also cover infrastructure, and Reeves will talk with the Secretary of State for Transport and the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero to “prioritise decisions on infrastructure projects that have been sitting unresolved for far too long”.

The government will set out “new policy sanctions” for “critical infrastructure in the coming months”.

 

Labour wants to be ‘party of homeownership’

Reeves said that she was aware that there would be “opposition” to some of the announcements and the government “must acknowledge that trade-offs always exist”.

“Any development may have environmental consequences, place pressure on services and rouse voices of local opposition, but we will not succumb to a status quo [that] responds to the existence of trade-offs by always saying no and relegates the national interest below other priorities,” she continued.

Reeves said in the Q&A with journalists after the speech that it was crucial to “get Britain building” and to “ensure that families can get on the housing ladder, because… it has gone backwards in the last few years”.

She continued: “Britain today has got lower homeownership than it should do and this Labour government wants to be the party of homeownership, but we also know that affordable housing, including housing for social rent, is an important part of the mix.”

Reeves said that the government needed the “private sector to build homes” and the government was “not going to be in the business of building those homes directly”.

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