Matthew Pennycook promises Mandatory Targets and Strategic Planning

In an Interview on Radio 4’s Today programme last week, Secretary of State Michael Gove and Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister Matthew Pennycook laid bare their visions for the future of housebuilding in the UK.

Gove, defending the government’s record on housebuilding, acknowledged that although his party “hasn’t done as well as we should”, one million homes had been built over the last parliamentary term, though he conceded this figure fell short of their ambitions.

When talking about constraints of housebuilding, Gove blamed Labour for obstructing housebuilding progress, particularly highlighting their vote against changes to nutrient neutrality rules, which he claimed prevented the unlocking of 100,000 new homes. Gove then cited “legacy EU rules” on the environment and “local opposition” as part of the problem.

Speaking immediately after, Labour’s Matthew Pennycook was questioned on two ways his party would reform planning to make housebuilding easier. Pennycook responded that Labour would firstly seek to reverse what he termed “damaging changes” to the NPPF and went on to slam the Conservatives abolition of housing targets which he claims saw “housebuilding rates collapse”.

Secondly, Pennycook highlighted the need for a robust mechanism for strategic planning across the country, a commitment echoed in Labour’s recent manifesto. He stressed that without such a mechanism, the country’s housing needs cannot be adequately addressed.

On the issue of green belt, Pennycook honed in on Labour’s view for a localised approach to green belt and went on to say that decisions regarding the release of green belt should be made by local authorities when they cannot meet their housing targets. This, he argued would ensure that any development on green belt is both strategic and suitable, pointing to the concept of ‘grey belt’.

On the discussion of ‘new towns’ Pennycook was asked how many new towns would be built under Labour, he responded, “we’ve not picked a number” and a “taskforce would be appointed in the first few weeks of a Labour government” to determine an appropriate number of sites for development.

The specifics of Labour’s proposals for new towns and ‘grey belt’, remain to be fully detailed. With Labour’s promise to appoint a taskforce immediately if elected on July 4th, the coming weeks could bring clarity on these issues, and it is evident that planning reform stands prominently at the forefront of Labour’s manifesto and their plans for mission driven government.

Click here for the link to the full interview: Today – Election 2024: Nick Robinson and Amol Rajan – BBC Sounds (Timestamp: 2:10:00)

Author: Melisa Geshteja

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