Johnson pledges to 'review' planning regulations to boost housebuilding

Prime minister Boris Johnson has promised to "review" planning regulations to tackle the country's housing crisis, and has pledged that the government will fund a new cross-Pennine rail route between Manchester and Leeds.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking in Manchester on Saturday. Pic: Getty Images
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking in Manchester on Saturday. Pic: Getty Images

In a speech delivered in Manchester at the weekend, Johnson said the gap between people who can afford to buy a home and those who can’t is "one of the biggest divides in our country".

He promised a wide-ranging examination of the tools available to his administration to tackle the housing crisis.

He said: "So we will review everything - including planning regulations, stamp duty, housing zones, as well as the efficacy of existing government initiatives."

He added that the government would "emphasise the need, the duty, to build beautiful homes that people actually want to live in, and being sensitive to local concerns".

Johnson also pledged to fund a new cross-Pennine rail route between Manchester and Leeds.

A deal to fund the long-mooted proposal could be agreed as early as this autumn, he said.

The new Prime Minister said the line would be part of a package of measures to try and rebalance growth and productivity across the UK.

Johnson said: "I want to be the Prime Minister who does with Northern Powerhouse Rail what we did with Crossrail in London.

"And today I am going to deliver on my commitment to that vision with a pledge to fund the Leeds to Manchester route."

He said that it would be up to local authorities to come to an agreement on the exact proposals.

However, he said he has instructed civil servants to accelerate work on the plans "so that we are ready to do a deal in the autumn".

Plans for a cross-Pennine rail route were backed by an alliance of city councils across the north of England in a 2014 report.

That same year, former chancellor George Osborne announced that the government would back proposals for what he called the High Speed Three rail link between cities in the north of England, including Manchester and Leeds.

The Manchester to Leeds link is part of a bigger proposal called Northern Powerhouse Rail, which would link Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield

Last year, the Times reported that chancellor Philip Hammond was ready to sign off £39bn of spending on the project.

Johnson went on to promise further regional devolution, including greater community say over housing and infrastructure and more elected mayors.

He stated: "We are going to give greater powers to council leaders and to communities.

"We are going to level up the powers offered to mayors so that more people can benefit from the kind of local government structures seen in London and here in Manchester.

"We are going to give more communities a greater say over changes to transport, housing, public services and infrastructure that will benefit their areas and drive local growth."

Johnson added that his administration would not just focus on major infrastructure projects.

He pledged to "improve the unglamorous local services which people use every day," such as buses, saying it is about "services within cities, not just services between cities".

That would involve helping local leaders to undertake improvements that can happen quickly, "not just big engineering schemes that will take years".

Last year, an emerging strategic transport plan for the north of England outlined plans to support councils' spatial and economic planning functions in developing an integrated approach to transport and land-use planning.

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