Smaller housebuilders must be part of the push to build 1.5m new homes over the next five years if Labour is elected, says the construction industry.

Labour leader Sir Kier Starmer told party conference delegates they would ‘bulldoze’ the planning system and harness development corporations to build new towns across England.

“There is one barrier so big, so imposing that it blocks out all light from the other side.

“A blockage that stops this country building roads, grid connections, laboratories, train lines, warehouses, windfarms, power stations.

“An obstacle to the aspirations of millions – now and in the future – who deserve the security of home ownership. A future hidden by our restrictive planning system… we must bulldoze through it,” said Sir Kier.

The Federation of Master Builders, FMB, has backed Sir Keir’s announcement on new settlements to promote regional growth but said local builders must be part of the process.

FMB chief executive Brian Berry said: “By bringing SMEs on board with new town development this will ensure high quality and diverse housing is delivered, while also creating wider benefits, like vocational skills opportunities.”

The National Federation of Builders, NFB, agreed and said development corporations were the ‘perfect mechanism’ to deliver this. It also wants large sites, where 100 or more homes are planned, to be subdivided by 20 to 30 builders.

Green belt review needed

Sir Kier also spoke about challenging the use of the green belt in certain circumstances to get Britain building again.

“Where there are clearly ridiculous uses of it, disused car parks, dreary wasteland. Not a green belt. A grey belt. Sometimes with a city’s boundary. Then this cannot be justified as a reason to hold our future back,” he said.

The building industry and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, RICS, support the Labour Party leader’s pledge to reform local planning laws to make it easier to develop land.

RICS has called for an evidence-led review of the green belt looking at ‘brownfield’ and ‘grey field’ sites.

“It’s encouraging that Labour is tackling the emotive issue of the green belt, with the so-called ‘grey belt’ which has restricted sensible and sustainable development for too long,” said Mr Berry.

NFB housing and planning head Rico Wojtulewicz said: “We need to assess the green belt. It is supposed to stop urban sprawl not just any green area you want to protect.”

Brokers Hank Zarihs Associates said that development finance lenders supported a shake-up of local planning policy making it easier to construct homes and commercial buildings.

RICS has called for better resourced local authority planning departments to tackle backlogs, produce up-to-date plans and reduce turnover.

Sir Kier pledged that the new sovereign wealth fund would invest in roads, tunnels and power stations with new cables laid to improve the National Grid.

The money from the fund would also create a series of technical colleges to plug building skills gaps.

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