Chancellor Rachel Reeves to bring back housebuilding targets

Rachel Reeves has announced she will reinstate compulsory housebuilding targets as part of a wider plan to revive the UK economy.

In her first speech as chancellor, she also said she would review planning restrictions and end the effective ban on onshore wind farms in England to speed up national infrastructure projects.

Ms Reeves said the government would make “tough choices” to turn the economy around, adding that the UK had been lagging behind other developed countries for years.

“The question is not whether we want growth, but rather how willing are we to make tough choices and confront vested interests?” she said.

“The story of the last 14 years has been one of refusal to face the tough and responsible decisions that need to be made. This government will be different and there is no time to lose.”

Former Bank of England economist Ms Reeves was appointed chancellor on Friday after Labour’s landslide victory in the election.

She and her team have been working all weekend on the pitch to business leaders and investors who have limited their investment in Britain in recent years because of the political chaos of the post-Brexit years and Liz Truss’s mini-budget.

It is hoped his plans will unlock tens of billions of pounds of investment in green industry and housebuilding.

Addressing Treasury business leaders, Ms Reeves said planning decisions for major infrastructure projects in Britain would be taken at a national rather than local level to avoid major projects being held up by years of bureaucracy.

The new government also plans to recruit additional planning officers to speed up the planning process and reinstate mandatory housing construction targets.

However, Ms Reeves said this was not a “green light” for any housing development, and that the right “mix” of affordable and social rented housing would be built.

“The Deputy Prime Minister will take an interventionist approach to ensure that we have the mix of housing that our country and our people need,” she said.

As part of a planning overhaul, she said Labour would review the boundaries of the green belt to prioritise brownfield sites and so-called ‘grey belt’ land, which is poor quality areas within the green belt.

The government will also ask the transport and energy secretaries to prioritise decisions on “infrastructure projects that have been on hold for far too long”.

Ms Reeves said the government would set out new policy intentions for critical infrastructure in the coming months, before updating the relevant national policy statements later this year.

“I know there will be opposition to this,” Ms Reeves said.

“I am not naive and we must recognise that trade-offs always exist. Any development can have environmental consequences, put pressure on services and give rise to voices of local opposition, but we will not succumb to a status quo that responds to the existence of trade-offs by always saying no.”

During the election campaign, Labour focused mainly on managing housing supply, with a promise to build 1.5 million homes in England during the next parliamentary term.

Supporters of mandatory housing targets say they are needed to ensure councils build the required number of homes.

Opponents, however, say the mandatory approach has been tried unsuccessfully for decades and risks forcing development onto greenfield sites against the wishes of local residents.

Roger Mortlock, chief executive of CPRE, the rural charity, said building on the green belt was not the answer.

“The idea that the green belt has not been touched (under) the last government is not true – around six to 10,000 homes a year have been built on greenfield sites in the green belt since 2009,” he said.

“Very often they create car-dependent communities that take over the green belt and do nothing for the people who live there.”

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