Chancellor Rachel Reeves announces planning reforms including mandatory local housing targets

In her first speech since taking office, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rachel Reeves has put housebuilding at the centre of the Labour Government’s growth plans, announcing a mix of reforms including a return to mandatory local housing targets.

The Chancellor said that during July, the industry will be consulted on changes to the National Planning Policy Framework that will reintroduce such targets, and the Treasury will be contacting councils who will have to prioritise brownfield and ‘grey belt’ development; sites formerly in the green belt but not constituting greenfield sites. Reeves also announced appointment of 300 extra planning officers across the UK, and the creation of a taskforce to “accelerate stalled housing sites,” beginning with four sites totalling 14,000 homes.

She confirmed that the new Government’s goal was to build 1.5 million homes over the course of this Parliament. Reeves also confirmed that Secretary of State for Housing Angela Rayner “would not hesistate to intervene to review planning decisions where the potential gain for regional and national economies warrant it.”

Reeves said that, also to take place “in these early days of the Government,” there would be reforms to the planning of infrastructure projects. The new Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Ed Milliband, and the Secretary of State for Transport, Louise Haigh, will work together to “prioritise decisions on infrastructure projects that had been sitting unresolved for far too long,” said Reeves.

Some of the housebuilding sector have already reacted positively to the decisive announcements. Richard Miller, land and planning director at Spitfire Homes said: “The announcement today by the Chancellor is very welcome. The news that there will be 300 more planning officers is definitely a step in the right direction – we hope that those positions will be right across the spectrum from junior to senior officers, taking people with industry experience.

He added: “We support the reintroduction of mandatory targets which will hold local authorities to their delivery objectives. We’re encouraged that within 72 hours, housing is top of the new Government’s political agenda. There is a long way to go to fix the broken system, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Scott Black, CEO at Places for People said: “The statement has our unequivocal support, we need more new homes and there is no time to waste. This is one of the most pressing issues for the UK, for economic growth, for families across the UK.”

The new Labour Government will also be bringing planning decisions on onshore wind projects under central control rather than local, and ending the “absurd” ban on these schemes imposed by the previous Conservative administration.

Reeves accepted there would be potential opposition to many of the results of the changes, but said “we will not succumb to a status quo which responds to the existence of trade offs by always saying ‘no’ and which relegates the national interest below other priorities.”