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Sat September 25 2021

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Miliband sets out house-building ambitions

16 Dec 13 Labour leader Ed Miliband is promising action to increase the amount of housing construction in the UK if he wins the next election in 2015.

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband
Labour Party leader Ed Miliband

He says the next Labour government will take action against house-builders that do not develop their landbanks swiftly enough and against local authorities that stymie the house-building plans of neighbouring councils.

His target is for UK new home registrations to reach 200,000 a year.

Mr Miliband said: “I want to send a clear message today: we will tackle those councils that block homes, those developers that hoard land and this government that fails to act on the worst housing shortages for a generation. We will stand up for home builders and first time buyers. And take on those who stand in the way of working people and their children having the decent homes they deserve.”

His allegation that the current government was “presiding over the lowest levels of homes built in peacetime since the 1920s” seems to suggest that we must have been at war during Gordon Brown’s premiership (see table below). However, a criticism of housing policy being more focused on demand than supply carried more weight.

Mr Miliband said: “The government has focused almost solely on increasing demand for housing and, while tinkering with planning rules, has done next-to-nothing to increase supply.”

He added: “At current rates we will be two million homes short of what Britain needs by 2020. If families are to prosper and our country is to succeed, Britain needs new homes. And the next Labour government will lead a non-stop drive to build them.”

Mr Miliband cited the battle between Stevenage and neighbouring North Hertfordshire Council. “Stevenage is a great community – an example of how successful new towns can be,” he said. “But for decades now it has been waiting to be completed and for decades it has been thwarted by home blocking councils on its borders. Plans to build almost 10,000 desperately-needed homes on the edge of this town have been blocked every single step of the way by North Hertfordshire Council, even though that would take the pressure off other areas in the county.

“There have been consultations galore, planning permission granted and lengthy appeals. The only winners have been lawyers, on whom Stevenage has had to spend more than £500,000 since 2001 on this issue alone.

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“North Herts Council is a home blocking council. It is bad for its neighbours, bad for its own residents where the housing waiting list has got ever longer, and bad for those who wish to protect their market towns from over-development.

“This is a stick-in-the-mud council. But a Labour government will not let desperately needed housing be stuck in the mud of North Hertfordshire.

“There are other examples across the country where proposals from successful towns and cities – like Luton and Oxford – have been blocked by neighbouring councils.

“Of course it is right that local communities have a say about where housing goes. But councils cannot be allowed to frustrate continually the efforts of others councils to get homes built. So the next Labour government will unblock this planning process and unlock the potential to build tens of thousands of new homes where they are needed.”

It is unclear whether the Labour leadership regards the big house-builders as victims or villains. Mr Miliband said the next Labour government would give local authorities carrot and stick powers to incentivise house-builders to get on with developments or face having it taken from them for development by others.

“Profits for our four biggest housing developers are going through the roof. They have soared 557% since this government took office – even though homes have been built at their slowest rate witnessed in peacetime for almost a century.

“But there are large amounts of land – enough to build more than a million homes - earmarked for houses which have not been built. Developers need a bank of land with which to work. But sometimes they, and other landowners, are hoarding it.

“The next Labour government will give councils powers to charge fees or, if necessary, purchase such land, so that developers have an incentive to do what they went into business to do. We will back home builders. But we will tell land hoarders with sites that have planning permission that they must use it or lose it.”

Mr Miliband has set up a housing commission under former Birmingham City Council chief executive Sir Michael Lyons to draw up the detail on how this could work.

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