The Labour party has announced its plans to select new town sites by end
of first year in government.

Commenting on the policy, Lawrence Turner, Director, Boyer said:

“Today’s announcement by Angela Rayner sets out a bold and ambitious
plan to deliver “towns of the future” to help tackle the UK’s housing
crisis. As past Governments have shown, building 300,000 homes per year
is a monumental task, but it is one that is desperately needed to
address the severe shortage of housing that has been a growing problem
for many years.

LIS Show – MPU

“To do this, Labour proposes to set up a New Town Commission within six
months of a Labour government coming into power, which will prioritise
the delivery of housing and infrastructure development to support new
communities. At the heart of the plan is the provision of 40% affordable
housing in these New Towns, which would help to address the housing
needs of all segments of society.

“However, the task of creating New Towns and developing housing at such
a rapid pace is not without its challenges. The political hurdles that
come with development on the edge of settlements and the release of
Green Belt, is something that has been very difficult for the incumbent
Government to deliver. Conservative voters, who tend to live and oppose
development in these areas, have been a significant roadblock to
progress for the Government over the last 14 years. The decision by
Labour to reclassify low-quality areas of Green Belt land for
development, known as Grey Belt, is a controversial move that will
likely face opposition from environmental groups and local residents.
However, it is a necessary first step to release the most sustainably
located land for much-needed housing. Tough decisions like this will be
crucial if Labour is to meet its ambitious housing targets.

“The reintroduction of housing targets in England and reforms to the
planning system are welcomed and are an important component of any plan
to address the housing crisis. Without mandatory housing targets and a
streamlined planning process, it will be impossible to deliver 300,000
homes per year.

“It is also vital that Labour works with the private sector to fund the
development of these new towns. While the Government can provide support
and incentives for developers to build affordable housing, ultimately it
will be private investment that drives the growth of new communities. By
creating a positive environment for developers and ensuring that land
values reflect the need to build affordable housing, New Towns can make
significant progress in addressing the housing crisis.”

Antony Duthie, Regional Director of planning consultancy Lanpro said:
When Sir Keir Starmer set out his six priorities last week, to the
surprise of many he didn’t include housing as a priority. And so it is
good to see housing back on the agenda.

That said, with the substantial downturn in housing delivery and
planning applications during this government, it is clearly imperative
that the planning system is de-politicised. Afte all, a home is a basic
human need and should be top of the agenda for the next Government no
matter what its political colour.

Whether Labour’s new towns policy can genuinely address the escalating
housing crisis – or whether it fails, as the ‘eco towns’ and so many
other similar proposals did before – will of course rest in the detail.

Today’s announcement boldly proposes that a Commission would be set up
within just six months and a list of sites decided within a year. Since
this would this require a new Act of Parliament as it did in the
post-war period, it may be committing to too much too soon.

Furthermore, there’s the question of willing landowners and contractual
negotiations with developers, presumably involving compulsory purchase:
it’s not a quick fix by any stretch of the imagination.
If you then throw into the mix the thorny subject of Green Belt
protection – the function of which is inherently misunderstood and leads
to very emotive objections; also viability considerations, the new
requirement for biodiversity net gain and the complexities of
infrastructure delivery, the delivery of new towns will be complex and

One advantage that this policy might bring is concerning the
infinitesimal issue of NIMBYism – in many cases, at least new towns are
in the back yard of very few people.

But while new towns are part of the solution, should we not be focusing
first on what’s readily achievable – such as the reintroduction of
housing targets and indeed the notion of ‘grey belt’ as already floated
by Labour?

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