Consultation paper on NPPF due to be published by the end of the month

Labour will bring back mandatory local housing targets with a consultation on reforming the National Planning Policy Framework to launch before the end of the month, Rachel Reeves has announced in her first major speech as chancellor.

Mandatory targets were effectively scrapped in December last year when then-housing secretary Michael Gove published his much-delayed NPPF, but in a speech this morning Reeves made clear that these changes would be reversed as part of a suite of reforms to planning policy.


Source: HM Treasury / Flickr

The new chancellor addressing Treasury staff yesterday

“In these first 72 hours we have done more to reform the planning system than previous governments have done in the last 14 years,” Reeves said this morning.

As well as the return of mandatory targets, changes to planning policy will include new priority given to energy projects and changes to the ways ministers use powers for direct intervention.

Reeves said that the new housing secretary, Angela Rayner, would write to local authorities to make clear that local plans and green belt reviews are expected, with priority given to brownfield and grey-belt development.

The shadow chancellor also re-stated that local authorities would be supported with 300 new planning officers, which was a manifesto pledge, and announced the creation of a new taskforce to accelerate stalled housing sites.

This taskforce will begin with Liverpool Central Docks, Northstowe, Langley Sutton Coalfield, and Worcester Parkway, which together would account for more than 14,000 homes.

Reeves insisted that Labour would not be increasing housebuilding by central decree.

“It will still be, in the first instance, up to local communities and local authorities to decide where housing is built,” she said.

“But we will bring back mandatory targets so the answer cannot always be no”

Colin Brown, head of planning and development at property consultant Carter Jonas, said the “change of tone” from the new government was “welcome and refreshing”, but he said they would need to “see a lot more detail on how they intend to implement these changes”.

Paul Rickard, managing director of Pocket Living, said the speech was a “welcome first step in ending the housing delivery crisis” and that the restoration of national housing targets would “help focus the minds of local authority decision-making”.

“However, whilst significant, planning reform alone is not enough to deliver the homes we need and we look forward to a comprehensive agenda coming forward around public-private delivery partnerships, support for SME developers to get building again, and a strong focus on boosting the capacity of the construction sector,” he said.

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, welcomed the return of targets and urged the government to “consider bold targets for Build-to-Rent and affordable housing specifically”.

The chief executive of housing association The Hyde Group, Andy Hulme, said it was “heartening” to see the new government using its first working day in office to move forwards on planning and said the reintroduction of local housing targets was an “important step”.

But he said it was “essential” that reforms are “accompanied by a clear commitment to a long term rent settlement for social housing providers, to provide the resources and capacity for not-for-profit charities to play our part in building these new homes and continuing to invest in the homes we already provide”.

Mike Childs, head of science, policy and research at Friends of the Earth, said boosting housing numbers “needn’t be in opposition to protecting the environment”.

“In terms of the green belt, much of what borders many towns and cities isn’t exactly a haven for wildlife thanks to intensive farming – but it does serve a vital purpose of preventing urban sprawl,” he said.

“Building on it should be a last resort and any nature-depleted greenbelt land must be restored and made accessible to communities no matter its use.”