Good luck with that! Expert questions Labour plan to create ‘new towns’

Initiative from party's Deputy Leader Angela Rayner says a Labour government would turn the screws on developers to get building within a year.

angela rayner labour housing

Labour has revealed its core housing policy manifesto, pegging its hopes on building several new towns in England and Wales by Government taking a more ‘strategic role’.

But the plans have raised eyebrows within the property industry including one planning experts – see his comments below.

The party says it will ‘push’ big developers to start building an unspecified number of new towns within a year, Labour says it wants to help people get on the housing ladder and provide affordable rented homes for those who can’t.

Launching the initiative, Deputy Leader Angela Rayner says she wants to see a building boom similar to the one that followed the Second World War.

Gold standard

Her plan, which is light on the practicalities of achieving these claims, includes a New Towns Code which will include a ‘gold standard target’ of 40% affordable homes.

This will include a mix of social and council homes, robust design codes that fit in with nearby areas, high density housing with good links to town and city centres, and access to nature and parks.

“Developers who deliver on their obligations to build high quality, well-designed and sustainable affordable housing, with green spaces and transport links and schools and GP surgeries nearby, will experience a new dawn under Labour,” she says.

“But those who have wriggled out of their responsibilities for too long will be robustly held to account.

“Labour’s towns of the future will be built on the foundations of our past. The post-war period taught us that when the government plays a strategic role in housebuilding, we can turbo-charge growth to the benefit of working people across Britain. That is what Labour’s plans will achieve.”

Too much too soon
Antony Duthie

But experts are wary of the initiative. One, planning expert Antony Duthie, Regional Director of planning consultancy Lanpro, has questioned whether a new towns approach can genuinely address the ‘escalating housing crisis’ citing previous failed attempts by the Tories to get similar proposals off the ground.

“[This] announcement boldly proposes that a Commission would be set up within just six months and a list of sites decided within a year,” he says.

“Since this would this require a new Act of Parliament as it did in the post-war period, it may be committing to too much too soon.

“Furthermore, there’s the question of willing landowners and contractual negotiations with developers, presumably involving compulsory purchase: it’s not a quick fix by any stretch of the imagination.

“If you then throw into the mix the thorny subject of Green Belt protection – the function of which is inherently misunderstood and leads to very emotive objections.”

He adds that other blocks will include viability considerations; the new requirement for biodiversity net gain and the complexities of infrastructure delivery, warning that the delivery of new towns will be “complex and protracted”.

One Comment

  1. You can bet that when these new towns fail to get built in the timeframe demanded by Rayner, all the blame will be heaped on developers. She already delights in talking about imposing rent controls on landlords and the removal of their rights to regain possession of their properties. When landlords are forced to sell up because renting has ceased to be economically viable, it’s inevitable she will blame “greedy” “profiteering” landlords when rental supply tightens even further and rents go up on the few occasions this is permitted.

    What on earth is this “new dawn” she’s banging on about? Decent profits? Simpler planning laws? Government-led development projects that give SMEs a chance to secure some site? Public-private joint ventures that reduce builders’ risks and their finance costs? All of this seems unlikely. And how is anyone going to make any kind of profit, given the expense of these “high-quality” obligations piled onto developers, and the fact that they will lose 40% of their plots before they even start in the form of social housing? S105 plots are hated by developers because they are guaranteed loss-makers: builders are barely reimbursed their construction costs by housing associations, so all the land and development costs and profit margins fall on the remaining homes for private sale, inevitably squeezing the pool of potential buyers and making developers look like the bad guys when it is government policy driving their cost structures.

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