Miliband says Labour would tackle councils that block housing plans of neighbouring councils as part of series of measures to boost housebuilding

Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband will today outline plans to tackle councils that block the development of new homes as well as developers that are “hoarding” land, as part of a plan to ensure a Labour government would build more than 200,000 a year by the end of the next parliament.

In a speech on housebuilding today, the Labour leader will warn that the shortage of new homes is part of “sustained cost-of-living crisis for millions of families and a threat to Britain’s future prosperity”.

He will launch an independent Housing Commission, to be led by Michael Lyons, who has been asked to draw up a road map for increasing the supply of new homes in England to more than 200,000 a year by the end of the next parliament.

The plans will include measures to tackle councils that block housing plans brought forward by neighbouring councils as part of a new “right to grow”, which would see the planning inspectorate examine different local plans and arbitrate between authorities to allocate housing based on need.

The planning inspectorate would then oversee a fast track consultation to agree housing development.

Miliband will say that four Labour-controlled councils - Stevenage, Oxford, Luton and York - would become the first “right to grow” local authorities, with the potential to unlock the construction of 40,000 new homes.

Miliband is expected to say: “Stevenage is a great community - an example of how successful new towns can be. But for decades now it has been waiting to be completed and for decades it has been thwarted by home blocking councils on its borders.

“But plans to build almost 10,000 desperately-needed homes on the edge of this town have been blocked every single step of the way by North Hertfordshire Council, even though that would take the pressure off other areas in the county.

“There have been consultations galore, planning permission granted and lengthy appeals. The only winners have been lawyers, on whom Stevenage has had to spend more than £500,000 since 2001 on this issue alone.

“North Herts Council is a home blocking council. It is bad for its neighbours, bad for its own residents where the housing waiting list has got ever longer, and bad for those who wish to protect their market towns from over-development

“This is a stick-in-the-mud council. But a Labour government will not let desperately needed housing be stuck in the mud of North Hertfordshire.

“There are other examples across the country where proposals from successful towns and cities - like Luton and Oxford - have been blocked by neighbouring councils.

“Of course it is right that local communities have a say about where housing goes. But councils cannot be allowed to frustrate continually the efforts of others councils to get homes built.

“So the next Labour government will unblock this planning process and unlock the potential to build tens of thousands of new homes where they are needed.”

Miliband will also commit the next Labour government to give communities new “use it or lose it” powers to release land that is being hoarded by developers when it has planning permission or has been set aside to build upon.

Miliband will warn that home shortages and rising house prices means many developers see more profit to be made from land speculation than from constructing the homes.

He will say: “Profits for our four biggest housing developers are going through the roof.

“But there are large amounts of land - enough to build more than a million homes - earmarked for houses which have not been built .

“Developers need a bank of land with which to work. But sometimes they, and other landowners, are hoarding it.

“The next Labour government will give councils powers to charge fees or, if necessary, purchase such land, so that developers have an incentive to do what they went into business to do.

“We will back home builders. But we will tell land hoarders with sites that have planning permission that they must use it or lose it.”

“I want to send a clear message today: we will tackle those councils that block homes, those developers that hoard land and this government that fails to act on the worst housing shortages for a generation.

“We will stand up for home builders and first time buyers. And take on those who stand in the way of working people and their children having the decent homes they deserve.”

Miliband will say that the Lyons Housing Commission will draw up detailed proposals on both the ‘right to grow’ and ‘use it or lose it’ powers, as well as other priorities, including

  • How local authorities could identify sites for - and deliver a plan to build - new towns and garden cities like Stevenage, which could be underwritten by government gurantees
  • Simplify rules surrounding the Housing Revenue Account to give local authorities more flexibility in how existing public funding is spent.
  • Ensure communities get a greater share of windfall gains from the granting of planning permission and have more of a say in how they are used, including providing more social and affordable housing locally.