Labour sources say target remains party policy

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Labour has been criticised by a thinktank after the party’s 40% affordable housing target for new towns was not included in its manifesto.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner last month announced developments must meet a ‘new towns code’ which will include a target to ensure 40% of homes are for affordable tenures.

But the party’s manifesto published last week made no mention of the 40% target.

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Instead, it contained an overall pledge to “deliver the biggest increase in social and affordable housebuilding in a generation”.

Adam Peggs from thinktank Common Wealth told the I newspaper that the omission of the target was a cause for “significant concern”.

He said: “For Labour’s new towns plan to be a success, high levels of genuinely affordable housing are a necessity.”

However sources close to the Labour party said the party’s new towns policy remains in place as originally announced and that it will “set a gold standard target of 40% affordable and social housing”.

The Labour manifesto also outlined a pledge to build 1.5 million new homes over the next parliament, which it said it would achieve by re-instating mandatory housing targets, strengthening presumptions in favour of sustainable development and funding additional planning officers, paid for by increasing the rate of the stamp duty surcharge paid by non-UK residents.

At-a-glance: the key measures for housing in the Labour manifesto

  • build 1.5 million new homes over the next parliament
  • re-instate mandatory housing targets, strengthen presumptions in favour of sustainable development and fund additional planning officers, paid for by increasing the rate of the stamp duty surcharge paid by non-UK residents
  • priortise the release of supposedly lower quality “grey belt” land.  
  • build a new generation of new towns and to reform compulsory purchase compensation rules relating to hope value
  • new planning powers and housing grant funding flexibilities for combined authorities 
  • make changes to the Affordable Homes Programme “to ensure that it delivers more homes from existing funding”
  • establish an Industrial Strategy Council
  • a £7.3bn National Wealth Fund to be tasked with supporting Labour’s growth and clean energy missions.  
  • develop a 10-year infrastructure strategy
  • update national plannong policy to make it easier to build laboratories, digital infrastructure and gigafactories
  • invest an extra £6.6bn as part of its Warm Homes Plan to upgrade five million homes. 

The party said it will require all combined and mayoral authorities to strategically plan for housing growth in their areas, while combined authorities will be “given new planning powers along with new freedoms and flexibilities to make better use of grant funding”.

The focus on strategic planning echoes the recommendations of a report by the Building the Future Commission, set up by Building and Housing Today last year.

>> See also: Sector reacts to Conservative Party’s ‘unbalanced’ and ‘frustrating’ manifesto

>> See also: Prominent architects warn Labour not to ‘fall for’ traditional housing design trend

The research, titled Report into the English Planning System, called for a reinstating of a strategic planning tier to take decisions on key strategic (or larger than local) planning issues such as housing numbers and green belt. It said this tier should be “based on existing sub-regional institutions such as metro mayor-led combined authorities, unitary or county authorities, or combinations of them”.

A spokesperson for the Labour party said: “A Labour government will reform our planning laws and kickstart economic growth by building 1.5 million homes in five years.”

Election focus

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With the UK set for a general election on 4 July, the country is facing some serious problems.  

Low growth, flatlining productivity, question marks over net zero funding and capability, skills shortages and a worsening housing crisis all amount to a daunting in-tray for the next government.

This year’s general election therefore has very high stakes for the built environment and the economy as a whole. For this reason,

Building’s election coverage aims to help the industry understand the issues and amplify construction’s voice so that the parties hears it loud and clear.