Keir Starmer has launched Labour’s vision to Get Britain Building Again, including a proposal to build on the Grey Belt, a new term for neglected parts of the Green Belt.

Get Britain Building Again requires further reform of the planning laws to facilitate the creation of 1.5 million new homes across the country, and Grey Belt will be crucial in supporting delivery, states Labour.

The programme to increase building is part of Starmer’s wider agenda to secure the highest sustained growth in the G7, under Labour’s five point plan for growth.

  • Putting economic stability first.
  • Getting Britain building again.
  • Backing British business.
  • Kickstarting a skills revolution.
  • Making work pay.

What is Grey Belt?

Labour makes a distinction between the genuine green elements of the Green Belt, which it will preserve with strong conditions prior to it being released for building. But while it has a Brownfield-first approach to development, the shadow cabinet recognises that the scale of building required cannot be achieved without releasing some land in the Green Belt.

This is where Grey Belt comes in as it encompasses those areas of the Green Belt that are poor quality, such as low value land, car parks and wasteland. The recategorisation of these areas would be mitigated by improving and protecting genuine areas of nature within the Green Belt.

Any such land that is released must provide for 50% affordable homes, as set out in its Golden Rules for development:

  1. Brownfield first
  2. Grey belt second
  3. Affordable homes
  4. Boost public services and infrastructure
  5. Protect genuine green space

Industry feedback has been cautiously welcoming, with a stress on the detail of how the plans will emerge being the crucial next step if Labour gets into power.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders said: “The UK is experiencing a growing housing crisis and brownfield sites alone are insufficient to tackle the scale of the challenge that we face. While brownfield land should be prioritised, introducing new measures to create more buildable land and is vital, particularly small sites which can be used by local house builders, as this will help to create more diverse, quality housing.

“More detail is needed about the proposal, particularly as to how ‘poor-quality and ugly areas’ are to be classified as Grey Belt…. Unlocking small sites would present significant opportunities, and these proposals must be supported with increased funding to empower local authority planning departments to support micro and SME housebuilders through the planning system.”

Words/image: Duncan Hayes

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