UK Labour promises 'new towns' to tackle housing shortage

A Persimmon Homes construction site of new build houses, Newcastle-under-Lyme

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's opposition Labour Party will pledge on Tuesday to work with the private sector to build so-called "new towns" aimed at meeting its commitment to construct 1.5 million new homes across Britain if it wins power.

Before a national election later this year, housebuilding, or the lack of it, has become increasingly important to voters in Britain, where many thousands cannot afford to buy homes, while others protest against new developments in rural areas.

The governing Conservatives under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak were forced to water down their 2019 manifesto commitment to build 300,000 homes annually in England, describing the target as advisory after pressure from some of the party's lawmakers not to carry out the plan.

Angela Rayner, Labour's deputy leader, will set out plans for a new generation of the "new towns" built after World War Two to provide new housing after the conflict.

“Developers who deliver on their obligations to build high quality, well designed and sustainable affordable housing, with green spaces and transport links and schools and GP surgeries nearby, will experience a new dawn under Labour," she said in a statement. "But those who have wriggled out of their responsibilities for too long will be robustly held to account."

She did not elaborate.

Labour is way ahead of the Conservatives in the polls, but officials in the party fear they have yet to win over a large number of undecided voters, and hope that by setting out their policies in more detail they can strengthen their lead. Critics say Labour has yet to offer enough detail on its policies.

Last week, Labour leader Keir Starmer, who has pulled his party towards the centre ground after it had veered to the left, promised to "rebuild Britain", setting out what he called the first steps in government if his party won the election.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Mark Heinrich)