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Government pledges “to get Britain building”

8 July 2024

Government pledges “to get Britain building”

In her first speech as chancellor following the Labour Party’s general election win, Rachel Reeves has pledged to encourage more construction activity by removing planning obstacles and increasing investment in green energy infrastructure.

This would include building 1.5 million homes over the next five years, as the party said when in opposition.

“Nowhere is decisive reform needed more urgently than in the case of our planning system,” she said. “Planning reform has become a byword for political timidity in the face of vested interests and a graveyard of economic ambition.

“Our antiquated planning system leaves too many important projects getting tied up in years and years of red tape before shovels ever get into the ground.”

The chancellor said the government will reform the National Planning Policy Framework, consulting on a new growth-focused approach to the planning system before the end of July, including restoring mandatory housing targets.

It is also ending the ban on new onshore wind power projects in England and will consult on bringing onshore wind back into the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime, meaning decisions on large developments would be taken nationally not locally.

The government will also give priority to energy projects in the system to ensure they make swift progress, and will build on the spatial plan for energy by expanding this to other infrastructure sectors.

Rachel Reeves said that the deputy prime minister Angela Rayner would write to local planning authorities alongside the National Planning Policy Framework consultation, emphasising an expectation of universal coverage of local plans, and reviews of greenbelt boundaries. These would prioritise brownfield and grey belt land for development to meet housing targets where needed.

She also promised reforms to the planning system, modifications to the skills system for a changing world of work and tackling economic inactivity to get people back to work for “a decade of national renewal”.

The chancellor said she has instructed Treasury officials to provide an assessment of the state of the government’s spending inheritance, to be presented to Parliament before the summer recess. There are also plans to launch a new National Wealth Fund to catalyse private sector investment in new and growing industries.

Rachel Reeves also repeated the Labour Party’s commitment to achieve this turnaround with no increases in National Insurance, and the basic, higher, or additional rates of income tax, or VAT. This suggests that much of the new stimulus will come from the private sector.

Photo: James Feaver/Unsplash

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