New towns needed to double housebuilding targets, says shadow housing minister

The creation of new towns and garden cities would play a central role in the Labour Party's plans to double the level of housebuilding, said the shadow housing minister.

Shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds at the TCPA conference
Shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds at the TCPA conference

Speaking at the Town and Country Planning Association's annual conference yesterday afternoon, Labour’s Emma Reynolds said new towns would be a key part of the party’s new housing commission, which would be launched in the next few weeks.

The commission, led by former BBC Trust chairman and local government finance expert Sir Michael Lyons, was announced in September at the Labour Party conference.

Reynolds said the commission would set out "a road map" of how a Labour government could build 200,000 homes a year by 2020 – roughly double the current level - including "how to drive forward a new generation of new towns and garden cities".

She said two other key issues to be examined by the commission would be: communities' "right to grow" if they have a housing need but no land to build on; and reform of the land market.

Reynolds said: "Presently, there is no structure of delivering new towns and garden cities.

"The commission will look at how to put those mechanisms in place.

"This is a personal passion of mine. I simply don't think we will reach volume or quality that we need unless we look at this seriously."

She said Lyons would examine incentives to encourage local authorities to come forward with proposals for new developments including new towns. "That's our first priority," she said.

Earlier, planning minister Nick Boles said central government should not impose new settlements on areas.

Asked by Planning how far a Labour government would go to create a new settlement in an area resistant to it, Reynolds said: "The question you asked would come further down the line. Certainly, we are not talking about that now."

She added: "We know this is a big challenge. But we are determined that new towns and garden cities should be the model to look at for how we go forward."

Reynolds said it was "important to deliver quality" as well numbers.

She described the ‘right to grow’ issue as the "Stevenage problem", because the Hertfordshire town has a high housing need but no land to build on and neighbouring authorities have not agreed to accept these new homes.

Reynolds said: "In my view, the [Localism Act's] duty to cooperate isn't working.

"What can central government do to empower local government in these areas to meet that housing need?"

Reynolds said that the Labour Party did not think the land market was "working well enough".

She said that too little land was being released and developers were "sitting on land with planning permission and not building".

Reynolds said: "All these things require political leadership. It’s not enough for government to say: 'Just get on with it.'

"Government nationally has to take a lead."

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