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Labour reveals first details of proposed planning policy

The UK's Labour Party has revealed the first details of some of the planning policies it hopes to put in place if it returns to power in the UK general election next May.23 Sep 2014

The party has said that it aims to increase building rates to deliver 200,000 homes per year by 2020, if elected. Speaking at the start of the Labour Party conference in Manchester on Saturday, Labour party leader Ed Miliband announced plans for the introduction of New Homes Corporations (NHCs), to be set up by local authorities across the country to accelerate housing development.

A Labour party statement said that NHCs were the "first key recommendation to emerge from the Lyons' Housing Commission", an independent review set up to provide housing policy ideas for the Party. According to the statement, NHCs would "build on the approach from the [2012] Olympics", identifying sites for development and working with housing associations, private sector partners, and housebuilders to bring forward rapid housing development.

It was intended that NHCs would provide owners and developers with the certainty that sites would be developed, enable large-scale developments across council boundaries and provide the infrastructure to support the communities developed. Alongside a policy to help smaller building companies to access funding, it was hoped that NHCs would "drive competition and diversity among house builders by seeking new partners for investment rather than relying simply on the existing large firms", the statement said.

Sir Michael Lyons, chair of the Lyons' Housing Commission said: "We need to mobilise across the nation to build the homes our children need. More land released, a wider range of builders and a bigger role for local authorities working with their partners are all important. Our report will offer a comprehensive view of how these measures and others can help us get to 200,000 homes a year and beyond."

Also speaking in Manchester this week was shadow planning minister Roberta Blackman-Woods. According to a report in Planning Magazine, Blackman-Woods said that Labour intended to reintroduce its policy of "brownfield-first" development through changes to the National Planning Policy Framework.

Reacting to the announcement, Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders said: "It makes sense to utilise previously developed land but a strict brownfield first policy would not be helpful. What we do need is positive policies to enable and encourage [small-and-medium-enterprise] house builders to build out brownfield sites."

"The best way to support the development of smaller brownfield sites would be for local authorities to identify and allocate a higher proportion of small sites than they are currently," added Berry. "Further streamlining of the planning application process would also help, especially if sites of up to ten units were given a 'redline' planning application route whereby only basic information would be required to obtain planning consent."

The Lyons' Housing Commission report is due to be published later this year.