Bright Blue says Keir Starmer is “absolutely right” to propose building on poor quality areas of the green belt

Influential Conservative think tank Bright Blue has given its full support to Labour’s plans to build on poor quality areas of the green belt despite official opposition from Tory headquarters.

The centre-right organisation closely associated with David Cameron and the One Nation group of Tory MPs said Labour was “absolutely right” to propose freeing up areas of the green belt which are derelict or have been previously developed.

It comes after the Conservatives criticised the proposals for “ignoring the concerns” of local people in a sign of a split in Tory circles over the issue.

green belt

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Labour has said it won’t build on the green belt but so-called ‘grey belt’ land can be used for house building

Last week Labour set out five ‘golden rules’ for councils including creating a new class of ‘grey belt’ land to ensure “poor quality and ugly areas” of the green belt could be built on.

Real estate firm Knight Frank has identified 11,000 grey belt sites and said they could be used to build up to 200,000 homes.

Supporters of Bright Blue, a flag bearer of a grouping of Tory MPs attempting to steer the party towards the centre ground, have included current housing secretary Michael Gove, who described it as a “source of radical and exciting ideas that have shaped government”.

The think tank’s senior research fellow Bartek Staniszewski said: “Unless we build on the green belt, the housing crisis will never go away. 

“It is almost twice as big as the country’s total developed-on area, and often near the country’s most expensive and desirable towns. 

“What is more, 4% of it is derelict, or has been built on in the past. This ‘grey belt’ could provide the land for between one and two million homes – a long way to clearing our country’s enormous undersupply of housing – and new development there would actually improve biodiversity. 

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“Labour are absolutely right to be going ahead with this.”

Conservative party chairman Richard Holden said last week in response to Labour’s proposals that “only Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives will respect local communities building the right homes in the right places”.

Labour’s proposals would require councils to prioritise brownfield land and target at least 50% affordable housing delivery on any grey built land that is released.

Party leader Keir Starmer and his deputy Angela Rayner have ruled out building on “genuine nature spots” and said plans must include improvements to existing green spaces.

They added plans must boost public services and local infrastructure, such as school and nursery places, new health centres and GP appointments.

The party previously pledged to build 1.5 million new homes over the next parliament and has said it will deliver “a blitz of planning reform” to help achieve this.

The planning reforms would involve working with local authorities to quickly draw up local plans that have stalled and recruiting hundreds of extra planners in a ‘sprint’ to agree new plans.