23 Apr 24

The British Property Federation is among those that have welcomed Labour’s “golden rules” for so-called grey belt development as a step in the right direction in the effort to build more homes and infrastructure.

The leader of the Opposition party Sir Kier Starmer has set out five “golden rules” for building on the green belt in an effort to boost housebuilding while improving “genuine green spaces”.

The proposed rules, announced on Friday, include prioritising previously developed brownfield sites and areas of ugly or poor-quality land that the party has dubbed “grey belt”.

While the party has committed to a “brownfield-first approach”, its plans also include releasing some green belt land in areas without enough brownfield sites and where that land is of poor quality.

Starmer said his party would “get tough on the blockers”.

He commented: “Labour supports brownfield-first policies. But we must be honest, we cannot build the homes Britain needs without also releasing some land currently classed as green belt.

“We’ll prioritise ugly, disused grey belt land, and set tough new conditions for releasing that land. Our golden rules will also ensure any grey belt development delivers affordable homes, new infrastructure and improved green spaces.”

As well as providing a “brownfield-first” approach and creating a “grey belt” category, Labour said it would require homes built on released land to provide at least 50% affordable housing and include plans to improve public services and local infrastructure.

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the National Federation of Builders, said: “Prioritising grey belt and pairing it with golden rules would ensure green space loss is mitigated, vital supporting infrastructure is delivered and both builders and local people get planning and place-making certainty.“It’s a win for all parties, which is why we support it.”

Housebuilding has increased in recent years, with 202,300 new homes started in 2022/23 compared to 187,870 in 2019/20, returning to levels last seen just before the financial crash. But planning applications have fallen since the middle of 2022.

Nick Sanderson, Audley Group CEO commented: “Labour’s ‘golden rules’ could remove some of the hurdles in the planning system. But brownfield, and greyfield sites, are just one possible solution. Pledges have to move away from simply building more homes to building the right types of homes. We should see manifestos that talk about adding diversity to our housing mix, including age-specific housing, to give people the options they are desperately looking for. The benefits would be numerous, but often go ignored.

“My view is that any new development, particularly city centre regeneration projects, should include provision for age-specific housing to meet demographic change.”

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