Call for Labour to focus on Midlands in new town strategy

Angela Rayner

Labour is considering establishing new towns in the Midlands and the heavily populated South-East of England, say reports.

Plans are being discussed for areas near Nottingham, Stafford and Northampton, according to The Guardian.

Some of these areas are under Labour’s local political control, which could aid Keir Starmer’s government in fulfilling its promise to begin home construction by the end of their first term.

Planners are also eyeing potential sites on both banks of the Thames estuary, where a new road bridge connecting Essex to Kent could be operational by 2031. Labour recently gained control of Thurrock council on the Essex side. Additionally, plans for development on the Kent side, including the potential doubling in size of Ebbsfleet, have been long-standing.

In South Hampshire, planners are considering another location.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, stated at a property conference in Leeds that a Labour government would appoint an independent task force to select suitable locations for “a new generation of new towns.”

Labour will need to decide whether to proceed with a 150,000-home expansion of Cambridge, backed by Michael Gove, the secretary of state for levelling up, housing, and communities, but opposed by local leaders.

“We know the majority of developers are on the same page, eager to work in partnership with the government to unlock housebuilding. That requires an active central government. Including the re-introduction of local housing targets” said Rayner.

“When Rishi Sunak binned this policy, he did so because he was too weak to stand up to his own MPs and now the public is paying the price.  We’re already seeing the consequences for house building rates across England.”

She continued: “The Conservatives have failed to hit their housing target every year since they set it, meaning that we continue to lag well behind much of Europe on house building. So, we will re-introduce local housing targets and ensure they are met.”

Rayner emphasised the importance of affordable housing, stating that 40% of the new housing would be affordable. She also stressed the need for the right type of housing in the right places, with necessary amenities like schools, GP surgeries, and green spaces.

Rayner envisioned the next generation of new towns as places where people want to live, inspired by successful examples like Hale in Manchester, Roundhay in Leeds, and various garden city projects.

It has been promised that a list of projects would be announced within the first year of a Starmer-led government.

Some projects, like Hale and Roundhay, could be extensions to existing major settlements, while others might follow the garden city model and be standalone towns.

Some experts suggest Labour should focus on extending existing towns and cities rather than building new ones.

Potential locations for extensions include Oxford, Norwich, Reading, and Stratford-upon-Avon, along with Taunton, Exeter, Harrogate, Preston, Carlisle, and Guildford.

The Town and Country Planning Association advised Labour to adopt a strategic and transparent approach to identifying locations and to prioritise building public trust in the consent process.

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