Financial News

  • 16 December 2013, 22:54

Miliband Threat To Councils On House Building

Communities who refuse to allow thousands of homes to be built on their doorsteps will have their views over-ridden under plans by Labour for more housing.

Developers who hoard land would also be told to use it or lose it.

Announcing a commission into housing, Ed Miliband set out how Labour would tackle the "worst housing shortage for a generation".

He said that under a Labour government "stick-in-the-mud" local councils who refused to allow neighbouring authorities to expand would be forced to unlock land for development, under "right to grow" schemes.

Although Mr Miliband insisted: "Of course it is right that local communities have a say about where housing goes. But councils cannot be allowed to frustrate continually the efforts of others councils to get homes built."

He also said that developers who had bought land and had planning permission but did not develop it would be ordered to sell it to local councils or charged fees for leaving it empty.

Mr Miliband said during a visit to a housing development in Stevenage that his plans would double the number of new homes being built to 200,000 a year by 2020.

Estate agent Rightmove has warned that house prices will rise by 8% in 2014 unless more homes are built.

There are fears that the Government's Help to Buy scheme is overheating the market in the south.

Mr Miliband said: "Profits for our four biggest housing developers are going through the roof.

"They have soared 557% since this Government took office - even though homes have been built at their slowest rate witnessed in peacetime for almost a century.

"But there are large amounts of land - enough to build more than a million homes - earmarked for houses which have not been built. Developers need a bank of land with which to work. But sometimes they, and other landowners, are hoarding it.

"The next Labour government will give councils powers to charge fees or, if necessary, purchase such land, so that developers have an incentive to do what they went into business to do.

"We will back home builders. But we will tell land hoarders with sites that have planning permission that they must use it or lose it."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Mr Miliband's initiative on housing was one of a series of "populist, gimmicky" announcements by Labour designed to draw attention from the party's failure to put forward a plan on the economy.

he said: "They are avoiding making any pronouncements on the major economic judgments they would need to make if they were to find themselves in government, instead favour a series of populist, gimmicky policy pronouncements."

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles rejected Labour's proposals, arguing that councils should be able to decide where new developments were located through local plans while safeguarding important environmental protections.

He said: "Under Labour, housebuilding fell to its lowest peacetime rate since the 1920s. Their top-down regional strategies and eco-towns failed hard-working families who aspired to own their own home, building nothing but resentment."

The commission set up by Labour under ex-BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons, will begin work looking at the "right to grow" scheme and the "use it or lose it" powers.

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