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Labour will aim to reveal new town sites within first year in power

A Labour government would aim to announce the sites for a series of new towns within a year of taking office, with the promise that homes would be built in them by the end of a first term, Angela Rayner is to say in a speech.

Giving more detail to a plan first outlined in Keir Starmer’s party conference speech in October, Rayner will tell a housing conference that Labour will strongly support private developers who create high-quality and affordable housing.

Speaking at the event in Leeds, the Labour deputy leader, who is also shadow housing and levelling up secretary, will link the plan with the new towns created under Labour during the postwar building boom. The new versions are part of a wider pledge by the party to oversee the construction of 1.5m new homes during a first term in office.

Under the plan, Rayner would appoint a new towns taskforce of independent experts to select possible sites, with factors to consider including local views, plus a suitably high demand for new housing and the prospect of jobs and transport infrastructure.

The process would be opened to bidding from councils. In a planned timetable the taskforce would make recommendations within six months, with the list of projects confirmed within 12 months and homes being built during a first term.

While the post-second world war New Towns Act put in place the process for 32 new towns, the Labour proposals would be for what are described as “a handful”, with the precise number depending on bids and viability.

Extracts of Rayner’s speech released in advance say: “Developers who deliver on their obligations to build high-quality, well-designed and sustainable affordable housing, with green spaces and transport links and schools and GPs’ surgeries nearby, will experience a new dawn under Labour.

“But those who have wriggled out of their responsibilities for too long will be robustly held to account.

“Labour’s towns of the future will be built on the foundations of our past. The postwar period taught us that when the government plays a strategic role in housebuilding, we can turbo-charge growth to the benefit of working people across Britain.”

Labour argues that planning applications are falling in England, saying that between October and December 2023, district planning authorities had 9% fewer applications than the same period a year before, and made decisions on 12% fewer.

Separately, a cross-party thinktank has argued that Labour could fund mass construction of new homes for social rent by raising money from what it described as a “fairness tax” on other aspects of the property market.

It estimated this could raise up to £4bn a year, enough to triple the current rate of social home building. In 2023, slightly more than 9,500 social rent homes were built in England, with more than 22,000 lost to the sector from being sold or demolished.

Richard Holden, the Conservative party chair, said Labour “tried to enact this policy last time they were in office and completely failed – failing to build even one new town and overseeing the lowest level of housebuilding in peacetime since the 1920s”.

Holden said the government was confident it would meet its 2019 manifesto target of building a million new homes by the end of the current parliament.

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