Is Labour’s housing landgrab coming to a city close to YOU?

The potential targets for Labour‘s housebuilding drive have been laid bare in a map today. 

Chancellor Rachel Reeves used her first major speech yesterday to vow a dramatic overhaul of the ‘timid’ planning system, aiming to build 1.5million new homes over the next five years. 

Before MPs break for the summer, councils will be issued with mandatory targets to clear the way for hundreds of thousands of new homes.

The presumption in favour of sustainable development will also be stronger, and Labour suggested it would use intervention powers if local authorities resisted. 

Alongside the measures, the government is set to rebrand some ‘lower quality’ Green Belt land as ‘grey belt’.

Ministers claim they are likely to be areas such as old car parks, wastelands, quarries or other green spaces with ‘little intrinsic beauty or character’.

Chancellor Rachel Reeves used her first major speech yesterday to vow a dramatic overhaul of the 'timid' planning system

Chancellor Rachel Reeves used her first major speech yesterday to vow a dramatic overhaul of the ‘timid’ planning system 

How Labour is declaring war on Britain’s planning system? 

Update the National Policy Planning Framework

In their general election manifesto, Labour vowed to update the National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF).

This is a 78-page document that sets out planning policies for England and how these should be applied.

Labour promised to undo ‘damaging’ Tory changes to the NPPF.

A draft updated document is expected to be published before Parliament rises for recess in August.

Restore mandatory housebuilding targets

Among their changes to the NPPF, Labour pledged to reverse the scrapping of mandatory local housebuilding targets for councils.

These were junked by the Tories in 2022, shortly after Rishi Sunak became PM, after dozens of Conservative MPs threatened a rebellion.

End the ban on new onshore wind turbines

Labour has promised to double the amount of onshore wind power as it seeks to decarbonise the UK’s electricity grid by 2030.

They are set to end the de facto ban on new onshore wind turbines, which was introduced by ex-PM David Cameron in 2015 through a tightening of planning rules.

The Tories made some changes to the NPPF last year to ease the effective ban, but Labour are expected to go further in their updated document.

New orders for councils to favour building

In their manifesto, Labour vowed to take ‘tough action’ to ensure councils have up-to-date Local Plans.

They also said they would strengthen the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

Labour also said they would ‘not be afraid to make full use of intervention powers’ to overrule local authorities in their bid to boost housebuilding.

More building on the green belt

Labour promised to pursue a ‘brownfield first approach’ to building new homes.

But, in their manifesto, they warned this alone would not be enough.

They vowed to take a ‘more strategic approach’ to the designation of green belt land.

Labour are set to rebrand some land as ‘grey belt’ land, which they described as ‘lower quality’.

These are likely to be areas where there old car parks or wastelands, and some green spaces with ‘little intrinsic beauty or character’.


But Tories said Ms Reeves’ proposals meant ‘building on fields’, condemning ministers for taking ‘top-down decisions that impact the countryside from offices in Whitehall’. 

Estimates by the Create Streets think-tank suggested 3 per cent of the Green Belt, covering 46,871 hectares, might be characterised as ‘grey belt’. 

Developing that space at a ‘gentle density’ could deliver between one million and 1.5million homes, it has argued. 

‘Grey belt’ locations could make up 4.9 per cent of the Green Belt in Cheltenham. 

It could account for 3 per cent of the protected area in Birmingham, 3.6 per cent in South & West Hampshire, 2.3 per cent in Bath and Bristol, and 3.2 per cent in London.  

Under the proposals unveiled by Ms Reeves, local people will be stripped of powers to object to onshore windfarms as decisions are to be taken at national level. 

Other infrastructure process could also be unblocked, potentially allowing for the installation of hundreds of miles of new electricity pylons needed to link up wind and solar farms to the grid. 

Speaking at the Treasury yesterday, Ms Reeves said there were always ‘trade-offs’ in allowing development to go ahead but the default answer could not be ‘no’.

‘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?’ she said.

‘The story of the last 14 years has been a refusal to confront the tough and the responsible decisions that are demanded. This Government will be different and there is no time to waste.’

Labour has previously described the ‘grey belt’ as the ‘ugly areas of the Green Belt’. 

‘We don’t think it is right that wastelands and old car parks located on the greenbelt are given the same protections in national policy as rolling hills and nature spots in the green belt,’ the party said earlier this year. 

The move was hailed by the renewables industry and climate change campaigners. 

But shadow environment secretary Steve Barclay said: ‘It has taken just days in office for Labour to show what we have said all along – they neither understand nor care for rural people.

‘Onshore wind is an important part of our energy mix, but removing protections to allow developers to ride roughshod over the concerns of rural communities isn’t the way to go.’

The CPRE countryside protection charity has previously voiced ‘concerns’ about including ‘ugly wastelands’ into the definition of ‘grey belt’. 

‘If done badly, Labour’s policy could lead to more speculative development by encouraging landowners to deteriorate undeveloped land,’ the charity said. 

‘While these areas of scrubland may not be as photogenic as wildflower meadows, they could be harnessed to create rich habitats such as wetlands and woodlands, which would benefit local communities, carbon sequestration and flood mitigation, while being accessible for people.’