Keir Starmer announces plans to relax planning restrictions and develop green belt land

Keir Starmer on a housing development site inside a house's living room wearing a high-vis jacket and orange gloves and a hard hat
Keir Starmer has announced the Labour Party's plan to allow homebuilding to take place on green belt plots and ease planning restrictions in a bid to increase housing supply in the UK (Image credit: Getty Images)

Sir Keir Starmer has announced the Labour Party's plans to combat the housing crisis by stating his intention if elected to allow more homes to be built on green belt land and ease planning regulations.

The announcement comes after the Conservative government received criticism for the current housing crisis as the government has consistently failed to meet its target of 300,000 yearly homes built.

Labour have now revealed a blueprint for the next election in an effort to gain voters who have struggled to buy a house after pledging it will become “the party of home ownership” if it wins the next general election.

Leaked Labour manifesto outlines Starmer's housing strategy

In a recent interview with BBC Breakfast, Starmer announced the Labour party's intention to allow more homes to be constructed on green belt land and to ease planning restrictions. 

Starmer emphasised that while respecting the beauty of the countryside, local areas could potentially repurpose car parks or similar areas for residential development. He pledged to modify planning rules and grant local authorities the necessary powers to facilitate such changes.

A blueprint for the Labour Party's manifesto, was also leaked earlier this month outlines its commitment to promoting homeownership and housebuilding, setting an ambitious target of achieving a homeownership rate of 70%. 

To aid first-time buyers, the party proposes implementing a comprehensive mortgage guarantee scheme that would enable prospective homeowners who struggle to save for a large deposit to access mortgage loans with the state acting as a guarantor.

Additionally, the 86-page blueprint highlighted the aim to construct high-quality, genuinely affordable homes nationwide. It also calls for a fundamental reform of the leasehold system and the enactment of legislation to abolish it as soon as possible.

Green belt could accommodate 73.8 million new homes

Reclassifying just 1% of England's green belt land could produce as many as 738,000 new homes, at an estimated value of £317.5 billion, according to recent research conducted by Searchland, a specialist development site sourcing company.

It was also revealed that the green belt currently covers around 12.6% of the country's land area, equivalent to approximately 1.6 million hectares or 16.4 billion square meters. Considering that the average new-build plot requires around 222 square meters, England's entire green belt could potentially accommodate approximately 73.8 million new homes.

In addition to this, Labour's plans to reduce planning restrictions could help the housing crisis as according to the government's latest data, 20% of local planning authorities in England did not approve any self build or custom build housing projects in the year leading up to October 2022. 

The figures also showed an increase in the numbers of planning permissions refused as there was a 23% decrease in permissions granted for custom and self build plots, and an 11% reduction in planning permissions for self build homes.

In addition to this, the number of individuals and groups registering for the Right to Build program in England hit an all-time low in 2022, with a 34% decrease in individual registrations and a 37% decrease in group registrations, suggesting many potential homebuilders have been discouraged from applying to build their own home. 

'How can they ever look the British people in the eye again?'

In an article in The Times, Starmer criticised the Conservative Party, accusing them of obstructing the aspirations of an entire generation by undermining homeownership. He warned that housebuilding rates were heading toward their lowest levels since World War II. 

The Home Builders Federation (HBF) supports this claim as they estimate that England’s new housing supply could drop below 120,000 later this decade, the lowest level in more than 80 years.

Starmer also confirmed Labour's intention to increase stamp duty for foreign individuals, trusts, and companies purchasing UK residential properties. The party also plans to reform planning regulations and antiquated land acquisition rules in order to stimulate construction and address flaws in the country's development model.

Lisa Nandy, the Shadow Housing Secretary, also accused the Conservatives of neglecting the needs of first-time buyers as Labour raises concerns about the potential further decline in homeownership rates among the 50-year-old demographic.

Nandy drew attention to data from the English Housing Survey, which revealed a decrease in the proportion of homeowners aged 45-54 from 74% in 2009/10 to 65.5% in 2021/22. If this trend continues, it is projected that homeownership rates could plummet to as low as 30% by the 2070s.

Keir Starmer and Lisa Nandy in high-vis jackets

Both Keir Starmer and Lisa Nandy criticise Rishi Sunak's record on housing claiming he has "failed" prospective homeowners (Image credit: Getty Images)

During the session of Prime Minister's Questions on the 29th June 2023, Starmer said "housebuilding has collapsed" since Sunak "crumbled to his backbenches and scrapped mandatory targets."

Starmer expressed disappointment in the Prime Minister's apparent "failure", which was "shattering the dream of those who desperately want to own their own home."

He then questioned: "How can they ever look the British people in the eye again, and claim to be the party of homeownership?"

Conservatives latest housing plans

The government have announced a number of measures to improve homebuilding and in the recent Spring Budget the government outlined it aims to tackle the issue of nutrient neutrality, which the government views as a significant barrier to achieving their target of constructing 300,000 homes annually. This challenge has impeded housing delivery in 74 local planning authorities.

Furthermore, the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill will include a review of national housing development policies to assess their sustainability, taking into account the recent housebuilding figures.

A government spokesperson emphasised the Conservative's commitment to supporting aspiring homeowners, highlighting the success of initiatives like Help to Buy and Right to Buy, which have assisted over 400,000 first-time buyers since 2010.

The spokesperson reiterated the government's priority of delivering 300,000 new homes each year, highlighting the allocation of significant investments totalling £11.5 billion to construct affordable and high-quality homes.

Rishi Sunak is also reportedly contemplating the relaunch of the Help to Buy fund in an attempt to help prospective homeowners.

Rishi Sunak leaving number 10 Downing Street with a folder under his arm whilst in a black suit and tie

The government have reiterated their commitment to building 300,000 new homes annually and Conservative leader, Rishi Sunak, is reportedly looking to re-introduce the Help to Buy scheme (Image credit: Getty Images)
Joseph Mullane
News Editor

News Editor Joseph has previously written for Today’s Media and Chambers & Partners, focusing on news for conveyancers and industry professionals.  Joseph has just started his own self build project, building his own home on his family’s farm with planning permission for a timber frame, three-bedroom house in a one-acre field. The foundation work has already begun and he hopes to have the home built in the next year. Prior to this he renovated his family's home as well as doing several DIY projects, including installing a shower, building sheds, and livestock fences and shelters for the farm’s animals. Outside of homebuilding, Joseph loves rugby and has written for Rugby World, the world’s largest rugby magazine.