Starmer calls for discussion about building on green belt

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Councils need to have the final say on whether homes can be built on green belt land, according to Sir Keir Starmer.

Ahead of addressing the British Chambers of Commerce, the Labour leader told The Times housebuilding was key to achieving “the sort of growth we need in this country”.

He said a discussion was needed over allowing building on the green belt if it meets local needs.

“It cannot be reduced to a simple discussion of will you or will you not build on the green belt,” he said. “This is why it’s important for local areas to have the power to decide where housing is going to be.

Sir Keir Starmer visit to South Ribble
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and deputy leader Angela Rayner during a visit to a housing development in South Ribble in Lancashire (Peter Byrne/PA)

He said giving local authorities greater scope to decide would provide a solution.

“It’s not as binary or straightforward as ‘green belt, not green belt’. It’s how you direct where the housing will be,” said Sir Keir, who also called for more onshore wind farms to be built in England.

He vowed to be “tough enough to take on vested interests”.

He will tell the BCC on Wednesday that planning reforms and a modern industrial strategy will revive an economy which is “stuck in second gear”, calling for a “union of the willing to… build a better Britain”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was forced to drop plans for compulsory housebuilding targets in the face of a backlash from rebel backbench MPs and Tory activists, but Sir Keir will restate a commitment to bring back local housing targets.

In his speech at Westminster, he will say: “A generation and its hopes are being blocked by those who – more often than not – enjoy the secure homes and jobs that they’re denying to others.”

He will say his policy of backing “the builders not the blockers” extends beyond just new houses.

“You can’t be serious about raising productivity, about improving the supply-side capacity of our economy and about arresting our economic decline without a plan for the wind farms, the laboratories, the warehouses and the homes this country so desperately needs,” he will say.

Sir Keir will say the county needs a government “that won’t sit on the sidelines” and will address the “doom-loop of low growth, low productivity and high taxes”.

“We need a reformed planning system, a modern industrial strategy, a more powerful British business bank that will help scale businesses – new and old,” he will say.

Against a backdrop of war in Europe and global shifts in power, Sir Keir will say: “We must square up to a new economic era where the old assumptions – on labour, on energy, on trade and goods – no longer apply.”

He will insist there are “opportunities to be seized, new markets to open up and a more prosperous future that can be won”.

Sir Keir will set out five key economic shifts: giving economic stability and certainty, handing power to communities across the country, seizing the opportunities of the future, increasing security at work and building economic resilience.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey will also address the BCC gathering.

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