Labour to tap into green belt to tackle housing crisis

Labour leader, Keir Starmer, plans to overhaul planning rules if Labour wins next year's general election, including reviewing green belt restrictions.

Related topics:  Planning,  Housing,  Politics,  Green belt
Property | Reporter
18th May 2023
Rural 555
"With whisperings of yet another Help to Buy reboot, it seems as though the government intends to maintain their strategy of fuelling buyer demand while maintaining a head-in-the-sand approach to actually building more homes"

Kier Starmer said during his speech to the British Chambers of Commerce: “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.”

Speaking to The Times, the Labour Leader discussed possible changes to the 'broken' planning system but stated that he wanted to go beyond simply reinstating housing targets.

He explained: “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.”

Unlocking green belt potential

Recent research from development site sourcing specialists, Searchland, suggest that unlocking just 1% of green belt land could deliver 738,000 homes with a market value of £317.5bn

England's green belt currently covers an estimated 1,638,150 hectares, or 16.382bn square metres, accounting for some 12.6% of the nation’s total land area. With the average new-build plot requiring an estimated 222 square metres of space, England’s entire greenbelt could facilitate some 73.790m new homes.

Its development has long been a controversial topic but there have been numerous calls for wrongly classified areas of green belt to be opened up for development in order to help address the housing crisis.

With the average new-build commanding £430,229 in the current market, that’s a potential £317.468bn in new housing stock reaching the market., according to Searchland.

Co-founder and CEO of Searchland, Mitchell Fasanya, commented:

“With whisperings of yet another Help to Buy reboot, it seems as though the government intends to maintain their strategy of fuelling buyer demand while maintaining a head-in-the-sand approach to actually building more homes.

"The result of which is a dangerously inflated market and record high house prices that the average homebuyer simply can’t afford.

"The development of green belt land is an unpopular solution, largely due to the misconception that it involves concreting over areas of outstanding natural beauty. The reality is that there is a great deal of green belt that simply isn’t classified correctly and the green belt itself is actually a buffer between urban sprawl and the countryside.

"There have been recent examples whereby green belt land has been successfully reclassified to provide much-needed homes and it really does beg the question, why does the government remain so intent on ignoring a solution that is staring them in the face?”

When pressed on green belt development, Kier Starmer said: “We need to have that discussion”, but added that councils should 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."

Marc Vlessing, Chief Executive, Pocket Living said:

“We welcome the commitment given by Kier Starmer to position homeownership at the centre of the policy agenda for the next election. From research we recently undertook it is clear that not only is a lack of homeownership opportunity acting as a drag on productivity, but it is also frustrating the aspirations of an entire generation of voters.

"We agree with the analysis that a failure to reform the planning system is a significant factor in creating this crisis, however, green belt reform is just one of a number of policy solutions available.

"Brownfield sites have a key role to play in the housing crisis and the industry-led Small Site Planning Policy remains the clearest solution to help unlock these opportunities.”


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