London borough chiefs tell Rachel Reeves: We're 'shovels in hand’ to help with house-building boom

London borough chiefs tell Rachel Reeves: We're 'shovels in hand’ to help with house-building boom

London borough chiefs told Chancellor Rachel Reeves that they are “shovels in hand’ to help with a house-building boom in Britain.

The new Labour government has pledged to build 1.5 million new homes in the next five years.

Ms Reeves announced 300 more planning officers to speed up decision for housing and other developments.

She also pushed ahead with easing planning restrictions to build more key infrastructure.

Cllr Claire Holland, Deputy Chair of London Councils, said: “Boroughs are strongly pro-housing growth and welcome the Chancellor prioritising this pivotal issue.

“We’re standing with hardhats on, shovels in hand, and ready to work with the government on our shared housebuilding ambitions.”

She stressed that there was a “desperate need to build more homes” in the capital.

“Without new housing, particularly affordable housing and homes for social rent, London’s homelessness crisis will only continue to worsen,” she explained.

“The capital’s future success depends upon us tackling this.

“As well as reforming the planning system to maximise delivery, we also need to look at the wider challenges undermining housebuilding, such as lack of crucial local infrastructure, construction skills shortages, and insufficient long-term funding for developing affordable homes.”

Mayor Sadiq Khan’s London Plan 2021 set a target of 52,000 new homes a year

Local authorities in the capital granted planning permission on average for over 57,000 new homes a year between 2020 and 2023.

The council bosses stressed that there were 283,000 potential new homes “in the pipeline” having already been granted planning permission in London and waiting to be built.

They also insisted that London boroughs’ planning departments performed comparatively well in terms of the speed of decisions.

They cited Whitehall figures that over the last two years, 88 per cent of major planning applications across England and 93 per cent in London were approved within 13 weeks or within the agreed time period.

More than 320,000 households are on waiting lists for social housing in the capital.

In her first major speech as Chancellor, Ms Reeves said there will be major changes to speed up infrastructure projects and unlock private investment and that the Government will make “tough” choices to fix the UK’s economy.

She said: “The question is not whether we want growth, but how strong is our resolve?

“How prepared are we to make the hard choices and face down the vested interests?

“How willing, even, to risk short-term political pain to fix Britain’s foundations?”

Ms Reeves confirmed:

* The national planning policy framework will be reformed, including restoring mandatory housebuilding targets for local authorities as part of the drive to build 1.5 million homes over five years.

* Labour’s housebuilding targets will mean allowing building on some land currently designated as green belt, including on a disused petrol station in Tottenham, north London, which could be considered “grey belt”.

* Levelling-up Secretary Angela Rayner is looking at plans for two data centres in London’s commuter belt, in Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, for a jobs boost.

* The “absurd” ban on new onshore wind farms in England has been scrapped and energy projects will be given priority in the planning system.

*A taskforce will “accelerate stalled housing sites”, beginning with Liverpool Central Docks, Worcester Parkway, Northstowe and Langley Sutton Coldfield, representing more than 14,000 homes.

* Ms Reeves also stressed to business chiefs around the world that Britain is a “safe place to invest” after political turbulence of recent years discouraged some businesses from doing so.

The Chancellor said environmental concerns cannot be allowed to block all developments.

“We must acknowledge that trade-offs always exist,” she accepted.

However, she stressed: “Any development may have environmental consequences, place pressure on services and rouse voices of local opposition, but we will not succumb to a status quo which responds to the existence of trade-offs by always saying ‘no’.”

The mission to kick-start economic growth is central to Labour’s hopes of funding public services without resorting to tax rises or being forced to slash spending in other areas.