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Labour ‘targets Green Belt for building thousands of homes’: Rachel Reeves uses first big speech as Chancellor to launch planning overhaul – vowing to end blocking of developments and major infrastructure projects

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Rachel Reeves will vow to end the blocking of housing development and major infrastructure projects today – with parts of the green belt targeted for building.

In her first major speech, the Chancellor will put her faith in a dramatic overhaul of the planning system to boost economic growth.

Before MPs break for the summer, councils will be issued with mandatory targets to clear the way for hundreds of thousands of new homes. 

And ministers will begin work on controversial plans to weaken protections for some parts of the green belt to make room for development.

Ministers are also looking to relax planning rules for major infrastructure projects, such as the installation of hundreds of miles of new electricity pylons needed to link up wind and solar farms to the grid.

Touring broadcast studios ahead of Ms Reeves’ appearance this morning, Treasury chief secretary Darren Jones said that stimulating ‘strength and growth’ in the economy is Labour‘s ‘first and most important mission’.

He tried to play down concerns that local communities will be ‘excluded’ from decisions on housing projects, saying the idea was just to remove ‘inertia’. 

In other early moves from the new government today:

  • Keir Starmer is visiting Northern Ireland, and will head to Wales later as well as posing for a photograph with his new MPs;
  • More than 330 MPs who have never served in Parliament before are descending on Westminster as the Commons prepares to reconvene tomorrow;
  • Tory recriminations are gathering pace in the wake of the extraordinary election meltdown last week.  

In her first major speech, Chancellor Rachel Reeves will put her faith in a dramatic overhaul of the planning system to boost economic growth 

Vowing to take the 'difficult decisions' needed to boost economic growth, the new Chancellor will use her first major speech to reveal that the Government is beginning its assault on the planning rules (Stock Image)

Vowing to take the ‘difficult decisions’ needed to boost economic growth, the new Chancellor will use her first major speech to reveal that the Government is beginning its assault on the planning rules (Stock Image)

Touring broadcast studios ahead of Ms Reeves' appearance this morning, Treasury chief secretary Darren Jones said that stimulating 'strength and growth' in the economy is Labour's 'first and most important mission'

Touring broadcast studios ahead of Ms Reeves’ appearance this morning, Treasury chief secretary Darren Jones said that stimulating ‘strength and growth’ in the economy is Labour’s ‘first and most important mission’

Ms Reeves will admit the public finances are so stretched that boosting growth is the ‘only route to improving the prosperity of our country’.

The landslide election win has given Labour a ‘mandate’ for radical change, she will argue.

Ms Reeves will insist that planning reform is among the ‘first steps’ needed to ‘fix the foundations of our economy, so we can rebuild Britain’.

‘Our manifesto was clear: Sustained economic growth is the only route to improving the prosperity of our country and the living standards of working people,’ she will say. 

‘Where governments have been unwilling to take the difficult decisions to deliver growth – or have waited too long to act – I will deliver.

‘It is now a national mission. There is no time to waste.’ Ms Reeves was appointed as Britain’s first female Chancellor on Friday, and warned that there was ‘not much money around’.

However, left-wing MPs and union leaders are already pushing for Sir Keir and Ms Reeves to turn on the spending taps.

Unite boss Sharon Graham said there was scope for the Government to borrow tens of billions of pounds to ‘invest’ in the economy and public services. 

She urged Ms Reeves to scrap Labour’s tight fiscal rules and pour billions into Britain’s ‘crumbling public services’.

‘We are going to have to borrow to invest,’ she told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg. ‘We have not got time to wait for growth.

‘People are literally hurting out there and we are going to have to borrow to invest – our crumbling public services need money.’

The intervention is an early sign that the Labour leadership may find it hard to resist reverting to its tax-and-spend traditions. 

The union boss warned that new Sir Keir ‘won’t have a lot of honeymoon period’ unless he delivers quickly.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, on the same programme, called for a ‘decisive break with austerity’. 

Sir Keir yesterday began a whistle-stop tour of the UK with a visit to Scotland, where he promised an ‘immediate reset’ of relations with the devolved administrations.

The union boss warned that new Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer 'won't have a lot of honeymoon period' unless he delivers quickly

The union boss warned that new Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer ‘won’t have a lot of honeymoon period’ unless he delivers quickly

Tomorrow he will travel to the Nato summit in Washington where he will seek to reassure leaders that his Government can be trusted on defence despite ditching Rishi Sunak’s pledge to raise military spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP by the end of the decade. 

Labour’s decision to target the planning system immediately is likely to bring it into conflict with both countryside campaigners and those communities that feel they are already at the limit of development their area can take.

It could also trigger a backlash from some of its own MPs who represent a swathe of constituencies across southern England where planning reform has been resisted for years.

During the election campaign, one Labour official said the party was prepared to ‘flatten the whole green belt’. This was denied by Labour.

Ben Houchen, Tory mayor of Tees Valley, said promising rapid growth on the back of planning reform could become ‘a noose around the Labour Party’s neck’. 

He added: ‘How keen are the Labour Government to tinker with environmental regulations which is one of the largest delays in the planning system?’

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