Love Labour – Lost Tories

The Labour Party is winning plaudits for its policies on housebuilding while the Conservatives also have housing high on the political agenda – but with an incredibly poor track record for delivery. We take a pre-election look at the promises on offer.

On 19 April 2024, Labour revealed a housing ‘plan’ which it claims would protect natural spaces but free up ‘greybelt’ land for building. Kier Starmer is the big noise on the plan as he sees housing as one of the big election battlefields.

Back in mid-February, the day after the Budget, Michael Gove, who heads the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), said a Conservative government is and will be focussed on brownfield development. DLUHC has often looked to expand the footprints available to build new housing but have been rebuffed by the Conservative Party’s own supporters who do not like the idea of new housing in their leafy suburbs let alone in the wider countryside.

In fact, the last time Gove suggested building away from cities, he was shot down do badly, he had to revise a whole policy document so that it only had brownfield/inner-city recommendations (including converting shops and offices). He said his backdown represented the will of the people and that there are enough city brownfields to solve the housing crisis.

The Conservative Party in government has consistently targeted 300,00 new homes per year – and has failed to deliver anywhere near that amount every single year.

This has played into Labour’s hands. The party now states: ‘Under the Tories, Britain faces a housing emergency that has left millions unable to plan their lives, start families or build a future for themselves and their kids’. This view is has gathered apace, with even the most conservative of organisations saying they feel Labour is on the right track while a Conservative government has proven inept. And it is not only those that have construction and house building as their priority, even investment firms are saying Get Britan Building is the way out of the economic turmoil. 


What is the greybelt

Starmer says: “After 14 years in power, the Conservatives have saddled the country with a chronic shortage of homes. The current planning system isn’t working. The Tories allow developers a free-for-all on the best quality land, with development that is haphazard and unplanned, and often leads to local opposition. I have a plan to get Britain building again by introducing a better system, that builds homes local people can afford, delivers new infrastructure and improves green spaces.

”Labour will not build on genuine nature spots and will set tough conditions for releasing green belt land for house building so that building more homes and protecting nature go hand-in-hand.

”We will prioritise building on brownfield land first. Yet we can’t build the homes that Britain needs without also releasing some greenbelt, including poor-quality land, car parks and wastelands currently classed as greenbelt.

”The term ‘greybelt’ refers to neglected areas such as poor quality wastelands and disused car parks that are in the greenbelt. These are places that we could build on, whilst we improve and protect genuine nature spots.”


Natural England

Labour is not alone in recognising this distinction – the chair of Natural England has called for green belt release to support the housing crisis, noting there is no inherent trade-off between building homes and protecting nature.


How many homes will Labour build?

Labour’s housebuilding targets will see one-and-a-half million new homes built within the first five years of a Labour government – according to Starmer.

In his speech to the Labour Party Conference on 10 October 2023, Starmer promised shovels in the ground and cranes in the sky over existing towns and cities and he also promised the next generation of new towns.



Back in February, Gove said: “Every council in England will be told that they will need to prioritise brownfield developments and instructed to be less bureaucratic and more flexible in applying policies that halt housebuilding on brownfield land.

“The bar for refusing brownfield plans will also be made much higher for those big city councils who are failing to hit their locally agreed housebuilding targets.

“Planning authorities in England’s 20 largest cities and towns will be made to follow a ‘brownfield presumption’, if housebuilding drops below expected levels. This will make it easier to get permission to build on previously developed brownfield sites.”


Picture: Labour contends that derelict warehouse, garages and carparks in greenbelt area will not be considered ‘previously developed’ under Gove’s plans.


Article written by Cathryn Ellis
25th April 2024


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