Reeves takes on the NIMBYs – lifts ‘absurd’ windfarm ban and signals major planning reform

Rachel Reeves at No 11

In her first speech as Chancellor Rachel Reeves laid out plans to “rebuild Britain and make every part of our country better off”.

Outlining steps to “fix the foundations of our economy” Reeves said a new taskforce will be created to accelerate stalled housing sites, starting with Liverpool Central Docks, and three schemes in the Midlands, representing more than 14,000 homes.

She also restored mandatory house building targets on council planning departments and lifted the “absurd” ban on building new onshore wind turbines, signalling a willingness to take on objectors many have dubbed NIMBYs (Not in My Back Yard).  

She said the overhaul of the planning system was “urgent” and planning had become “a byword for political timidity in the face of vested interests and a graveyard of economic ambition.”

She added: “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.”

With Prime Minister Keir Starmer and his deputy Angela Rayner, also Communities Secretary,  set to meet the Metro Mayors at Downing Street later today (Tuesday 9 July 2024), focus will now be on what further powers may be devolved.

Mayors will be asked to identify local specialisms which could contribute to a “national industrial strategy”.

At a council level Liverpool City Council leader Cllr Liam Robinson said in an open letter that he was willing to work closely with the government to advance that building agenda, amongst others. “No-one knows our communities as well as we do, and that insight is key to tackling key challenges such as deprivation, public health and the quality of housing, as well as the opportunities presented by improving skills, creating an integrated public transport system and staging major cultural events,” he said.

Accompanied by infrastructure investors, Reeves’ first speech as Chancellor emphasised “stability, investment and reform” as her three pillars essential for ensuring growth is the Labour government’s national mission. 

She highlighted that ‘nowhere is decisive reform needed more than in planning’, the Chancellor announced initiatives to speed up the grid, remove barriers to onshore wind, and review the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The new approach was welcomed by Richard Beresford, Chief Executive of the National Federation of Builders, who said it was “exciting” to have a government “that understands why reforming planning will deliver and sustain employment, housing, transport, regional and national strategy, and investor confidence.” 

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said in a statement in response to Rachel Reeves’ speech that they welcomed the “Grey Belt” designation which may yield around 100,000 to 200,000 houses. 

However it also warned that “urgent investment” is needed in electrical grid capacity to help support future housing and infrastructure needs.

James Bailey, housing leader at consultants PwC, said the government should consider how it better promotes the use of mixed-tenure partnership models, through the targeted use of public investment, in order to “crowd in forms of private capital that scale up the provision of much-needed affordable and private rental housing across the country.”