Labour’s plans for the next generation of new towns

04 Jun 24

As part of Labour’s commitment to ‘get Britain building again’ with 1.5 million homes over the next five years, the party has promised a range of measures to unlock growth, with the punchiest numbers to be delivered through a wave of new towns.

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At UKREiiF last month, Deputy Leader and Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Angela Rayner presented new towns as a major tool to unlock development and deliver growth.

A new wave of new towns
As part of Labour’s commitment to ‘get Britain building again’ with 1.5 million homes over the next five years, the party has promised a range of measures to unlock growth, with the punchiest numbers to be delivered through a wave of new towns. An ‘expert independent taskforce’ would oversee the site selection process, and developments would conform to a ‘New Towns code’.

Speeding up delivery
Labour is considering a range of solutions to ramp up delivery, including the revised new towns policy, harnessing technology including AI to support reform, and bolstering resources.

Where local authorities do not have the appetite or capacity for delivery, Labour will look into delivery vehicles including locally-led development corporations to streamline decision-making. Achieving completions within a parliamentary term will be a huge challenge, so they will need a separate fast-track option for oven-ready schemes.

Learning from the past
The first new towns were created towards the end of the Second World War, amidst a national housing shortage. The 1946 New Towns Act set out a large-scale programme for building new towns, giving the Government power to select areas of land for large-scale development. Sites were then removed from local authority control and placed under a development corporation responsible for the town’s management, design and development to speed up and simplify delivery.

The programme eventually created 32 new towns right across the UK, including the likes of Stevenage, Crawley and Redditch.

Here are some interesting takeaways:

  • Local authorities were integral to deciding many sites
  • Planning teams were sufficiently resourced to manage demand
  • The Government was a key enabler and continues to benefit through regular income
  • Land value capture was used to successfully fund infrastructure
  • Delivery at pace was supported through development corporations
  • Stewardship and long-term management were not part of the model, so many towns now need wholesale investment

Are you ready?
If Labour takes power in this election they are likely to be inundated with ideas and proposals for big growth. The ‘expert independent taskforce’ will have their work cut out separating the wheat from the chaff, providing focus and direction, and identifying the most pragmatic frameworks to allow schemes to move at pace so that they don’t suffer the same roadblocks that have blighted delivery over the past 25 years. At the same time, they will need to take a weary and cynical public with them – something which was not a challenge the post-war Labour government had to contend with.

No two sites, or their promotion, are the same, but here are ten tips to get you started with your strategic thinking:

    1. Know your audience
    2. Create a compelling business case
    3. Devise a clear vision that promises more than housing
    4. Work collaboratively with local authorities
    5. Talk to communities from the start
    6. Deliver infrastructure first
    7. Define community and economic benefits
    8. Understand local housing supply numbers
    9. Consider how to deliver at pace
    10. Plan for stewardship early

    Securing endorsement for strategic growth ultimately requires a proposal to demonstrate two things: 1. The status quo does not work, and 2. The benefits of intervention warrant the need to do something differently.

    Get in touch
    To discuss how we can help get your plans in shape, contact Gemma Gallant, Director of Engagement & Place

Gemma Gallant Director,Engagement