Labour leader says party would reimpose housing targets and ‘back builders’ if elected

Keir Starmer has vowed to reform planning rules if Labour is elected to power next year, including by loosening Green Belt restrictions.

In a speech to the British Chambers of Commerce later today, the Labour leader will say Labour will back the “builders not the blockers” by “taking on planning reform”, including by reinstating housing targets.

Keir Starmer PMQs May 2023

Keir Starmer debating planning rules with Rishi Sunak at the start of the month

However, in an interview with the Times published this morning, Starmer went further, implying he would give councils the power to choose to build on green belt land if necessary in order to build homes.

His comments follow the decision before Christmas by housing secretary Michael Gove and prime minister Rishi Sunak to cave into demands from backbench MPs to water down local housing targets. Part of the deal saw Gove make current strong protections for Green Belt land in the planning system even stronger.

The Labour Party said the Starmer will say: “A generation and its hopes are being blocked by those who - more often than not - enjoy the secure homes and jobs that they’re denying to others.”

“Mark my words: we will take on planning reform. We’ll bring back local housing targets. We’ll streamline the process for national infrastructure projects and commercial development and we’ll remove the veto used by big landowners to stop shovels hitting the ground.”

“We choose the builders, not the blockers; the future, not the past; renewal not decline. We choose growth.”

He will say that the result of the current dysfunctional planning system is “a doom-loop of low growth, low productivity and high taxes”.

However, speaking to the Times, Starmer was more specific about the planning changes he wanted to see. He told the paper that he wanted to go further that simply reinstating housing targets, because “if we just put the target back up, we risk going back to where they were just before Christmas, which is a very low rate of building. So, we need to go further than that and fix what is essentially a broken system.”

Asked about the Green Belt, he said “we need to have that discussion”, and that councils needed to be given powers to determine where housing should go. “It’s important for local areas to have the power to decide where housing is going to be,” he said.

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“Very often the objections that people have to housebuilding on the green belt are valid because the control by landowners and developers mean that the houses are proposed in areas where it’s quite obvious that there’s going to be a local concern.

“Give local authorities, local areas more power to decide where it will be and you alleviate that problem. So, it’s not as binary or straightforward as ‘green belt, not green belt’. It’s how you direct where the housing will be.”