Today marks a political change in Central Government.  For many of our clients we recognise you will be wondering what this may mean in property terms, with the Labour Party Manifesto being centred on national renewal and change. So, what changes can we expect under the newly elected Labour Government?  Here are some of the key measures we expect to see over the parliamentary term:

Development and Growth

Within their Manifesto the Labour Party pledged they will build 1.5 million homes over the next parliament primarily through reform of planning restrictions which it says, “act as a major brake on economic growth”.

Planning reform

One of the Government’s first priorities will be to update the National Planning Policy Framework to reinstate mandatory house building targets. The Government will initially retain the existing standard method for calculating housing needs, to avoid delays, with possible future revisions to better reflect and respond to current data.

The Labour manifesto promises ‘tough action’ to ensure planning authorities have up-to-date local plans; whilst aiming to reform and strengthen these in favour of sustainable development, whilst having stated they will not hesitate to use ‘intervention powers’ to build housing where necessary.

Whilst Labour has outlined a ‘brownfield first’ approach to development, prioritising and fast-tracking urban brownfield regeneration, the party recognises that such land stock is insufficient to meet current housebuilding requirements which is why their ambitions include building a new generation of towns nationally.

To identify suitable sites for new towns, an expert panel will be set up within the first year, ensuring that the selection process is thorough and based on expert knowledge. Roles of the panel will include:

  • Site assessment: Evaluating potential sites based on criteria such as infrastructure, environmental impact and housing demand.
  • Stakeholder engagement: Consulting with local communities, planning authorities and industry experts to gather input and build consensus.
  • Policy recommendations: Providing strategic advice on planning policies and development frameworks to ensure the successful establishment of new towns.

Government will deepen devolution settlements for existing Combined Authorities; and in the interests of planning strategically for housing growth in such areas, consolidate powers to allow for improved decision-taking, supported with grant funding.

Local areas will be given new powers over transport, adult education and skills, housing and planning and employment support.

A new statutory requirement for Local Growth Plans for towns and cities across the country will be introduced, identifying growth sectors and the programmes and infrastructure they need. These will be aligned with the new national industrial strategy.  National planning policies will also be updated to make it easier to build laboratories, digital infrastructure and gigafactories.

Grey Belt Land and Affordable Housing

The Government will consider the release of Green Belt land for housing, through the creation of a new category of ‘grey belt’ to allow development on “poor quality” and “ugly” green belt land. Their plan has already identified over 11,000 potential grey belt sites, which could deliver around 100,000 to 200,000 new homes.

As part of their National Development Management Policies, which will be introduced specifically for the Green Belt, Labour has proposed a set of ‘golden rules’ to ensure that any development released benefits both communities and nature. These rules include:

  • Affordable housing: A minimum of 50% of the homes built on grey belt land must be affordable (although the party has not yet defined what it classifies as ‘affordable’ housing).
  • Public services and infrastructure: Developments must include new public services and infrastructure such as schools, nurseries and health centres.
  • Environmental enhancement: Projects must contribute to local biodiversity, green spaces and overall environmental quality.
  • Green Space Improvement: Projects must include improvements to existing green spaces and avoid building on nature rich areas.
  • Sustainable practices: All developments must adhere to sustainable building practices and aim for low carbon footprints.

Explaining its reason for creating a grey belt, the Government said: “We don’t think it is right that wastelands and old car parks located on the green belt are given the same protections in national policy as rolling hills and nature spots in the green belt”.  A recent article in the Sunday Times, suggested that the party would announce a local authority led review of the Green Belt within the first two weeks of power, which Chancellor Rachel Reeves stating there was an “urgency” about the issue because “we know that for kids like us today [from working class backgrounds], some of those opportunities [to own a home] don’t exist”.

The Government has also stated they will support councils and housing associations in building affordable housing and will update the ‘Affordable Homes Programme’ to ensure it delivers ‘more homes from existing funding.’ They plan to reform compulsory purchase compensation rules to improve land assembly, speed up site delivery, and deliver housing, infrastructure, amenity, and transport benefits. This includes removing ‘hope value’ by ensuring landowners receive fair compensation rather than inflated prices based on the prospect of planning permission.

Labour aims to work with local authorities to give first-time buyers the first chance to buy homes and prevent entire developments from being sold off to international investors before houses are built. Additionally, they will introduce a permanent, comprehensive ‘mortgage guarantee’ scheme to support first-time buyers save for a large deposit, resulting in lower mortgage costs.

More planning officers at Councils

To help ensure planning applications are handled more expediently their manifesto outlined a desire to fund 300 additional planning officers, financed by increasing the rate of the stamp duty surcharge paid by non-UK residents.

Energy and the Environment

The Government aims to make the UK the green finance capital of the world, mandating UK regulated financial institutions and FTSE 100 companies to develop and implement credible transition plans to align with the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement.

Great British Energy

To tackle high energy costs, the Government will create a new publicly owned green energy company ‘Great British Energy’. To deliver this, they aim to work with the private sector to double onshore wind capabilities, triple solar power and quadruple offshore wind by 2030, as well as provide long-term energy storage and optimised grid connection. The aim is to make Britain a clean energy superpower, attaining zero-carbon electricity by 2030. A new Energy Independence Act will establish the framework for energy and climate policies. The Great British Energy Company will be set up to work with Local Authorities to establish clean local energy production to benefit communities.

Warm Homes

As part of a series of environmental policies, Labour commits to invest £6.6 billion in a ‘Warm Homes’ initiative to upgrade every home that needs it to EPC standard C within a decade. Labour’s ‘Warm Homes Plan’ will offer grants and low-interest loans to support both owners and renters in investing in insulation, solar panels, and low carbon heating, thereby reducing energy bills. Homes in the private rented section will be expected to meet minimum energy efficiency standards by 2030.

Nutrient Neutrality

On the controversial topic of Nutrient Neutrality Labour’s manifesto states they will implement ‘solutions’ to unlock the building of homes affected by nutrient neutrality without ‘weakening’ environmental protections.

Infrastructure

Labour pledges to establish a ‘National Infrastructure and Service Transformation Authority’ to set strategic infrastructure aims nationally and oversee these projects. The Authority will aim to bring about projects more quickly and cheaply, reducing ‘red tape’. It is expected that the existing Infrastructure Levy will be discontinued due to concerns over its negative impact on affordable housing provision. The infrastructure levy, originally intended to fund local infrastructure projects, has been criticised for inflating housing costs and deterring developers from building affordable homes. Labour’s removal of the infrastructure levy is expected to streamline the housing development process and reduce costs for developers. To support infrastructure development, it is expected that Government grants to local authorities could be applied, or be encouraged via Public Private Partnerships encouraging investment between public and private sectors to co-fund infrastructure developments. Similarly, restrictions upon local authorities could be lifted allowing them to issue bonds to finance large-scale infrastructure projects.

The Government also plans to update railway infrastructure with a particular focus on the north, and have expressed their desire to renationalise the railways as contracts with operators expire or are broken through failure to meet service level agreements as part of a ten-year infrastructure strategy. These national railways would be responsible for investment, day-to-day operational delivery and innovation and improvements for passengers, working alongside publicly owned rail operators in Wales and Scotland.

The Government will also introduce an automotive sector plan, supporting the transition to electric vehicles by accelerating the rollout of charge points and restoring the phase-out date of 2030 for new petrol/diesel cars.

Further information.

Should you have any queries on what a new Labour government may mean to your potential development, then please contact Andrew Gray in our Planning and Development team on 07590 880057 or by email andrew.gray@argroup.co.uk