Whatever the debates raging about the chances of success for the left-wing MP for Islington North, he is clearly ahead in one race – he is the first candidate to put forward detailed proposals on planning policy.
In his Housing Policy document published this month Mr Corbyn is explicit about turning away from the private sector as the primary provider of new homes. Arguing that ‘‘only the Government is able to play the strategic, co-ordinating role needed to tackle the housing crisis’’ he advocates increasing public sector borrowing to pay for more homes, including council houses, to be built directly by government.
In line with this centralist focus Mr Corbyn suggests a return to strategic planning:
‘‘In many areas of the country, the housing crisis is much less acute and there are large numbers of vacant properties or swathes of residential land that has lain undeveloped for many years… By rebalancing our economy and investment throughout the UK we can ensure that all parts of the country provide decent work and that housing is utilised as efficiently as possible.’’
‘‘We must return to having regional home building targets to ensure homes are built in every area, so that rural areas benefit from building council homes as well as our urban centres.’’
Mr Corbyn also looks to prevent overseas buyers from making a profit out of UK property:
‘‘Too many new homes that are built for sale end up as buy-to-let investments… Local authorities could be given the option of levying higher council tax rates or a new tax on properties left empty. Additionally we could look at banning the ownership of property by non-UK based entities or by companies and offshore trusts altogether.’’
Similarly he expresses a keen desire to stop (alleged) landbanking by developers:
‘‘We should consider introducing a Land Value Tax on undeveloped land that has planning permission, and ‘use it or lose it’ measures on other brownfield sites, to act as a disincentive to landbanking and to raise public funds for house-building. Councils should also be allowed to compulsorily purchase (CPO) sites at a fair value if their owners are not developing them.’’
Office-to-Resi is to be ‘‘reversed’’ and sites released by the public sector are to be kept away from private developers:
‘‘Public land should be developed in many cases, but should be transferred to councils to build council housing to meet local need.’’
Green Belt protections are to be retained:
‘‘Developers will nearly always argue for the release of green belt land because it is easier for them compared to developing brownfield sites. But we don’t simply want our towns sprawling outwards with reliance on cars growing – and the green belt has prevented that to a certain extent. Any widespread relaxations would also risk inflating the land values of green belt sites, without careful planning requirements being set in place first.’’
In planning, as in other policy areas, Mr Corbyn’s offer is distinctive, to say the least.