Starmer vows to ‘bulldoze’ through planning laws to build 1.5m more homes

Sir Keir Starmer was accused of plotting to concrete over the green belt after he vowed to “bulldoze” through planning laws
if he wins power.

After a dramatic start to his conference speech when a protester stormed the stage and covered him in glitter, the Labour leader set himself up as the heir to Sir Tony Blair with promises to renew the country after 13 years of Tory rule. But he failed to mention any plan to deal with the small boats crisis during the ­hour-long speech.

And he lifted the lid on Labour’s plans to tear up planning rules to end the ­“blockage” on major new developments.

He said: “Let’s get to work, because 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, wind farms, 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. Conference, we must ­bulldoze through it.”

Sir Keir said Labour would build new towns as part of his plan for 1.5 million more homes in five years.

The locations will be chosen based on housing need and transport access in the first six months of a Labour government. Thousands of new pylons and wind farms are also being planned as well as ­warehouses and power stations.

Sir Keir insisted that he will not be “tearing up the green belt” and claimed that no party “fights harder for our environment” than Labour.

But he attacked so-called “nimbys” who oppose developments, telling the ­conference there would be “no more inertia in the face of resistance – and there will be resistance from people who say, ‘No, we don’t want Britain’s future here’”.

Critics warned the plan will leave local communities at the mercy of developers. Senior Conservative Sir John Hayes said: “It’s now clear that Keir Starmer would destroy our green and pleasant land.

“He would concrete over the green belt to build new homes for the thousands of illegal immigrants he will let into this ­country. The campaign begins now to save Britain from Starmer’s bulldozers.”

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Rosie Pearson, who runs the Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk Pylons Action Group, said: “Keir Starmer’s speech is a call to arms to those who believe that ­communities should be in control of their own destiny, and that the environment and nature are in desperate need of protection.

“Threatening to bulldoze through the planning system and support the builders amounts to lining the pockets of ­developers, project promoters and their shareholders. The Great Grid Upgrade can and should be done in a way that benefits consumers, communities and the environment. Drawing battle lines helps no one and will not deliver projects faster.”

After the disruption at the start of Sir Keir’s speech at the Labour conference in Liverpool, a 28-year-old man from Surrey was arrested on suspicion of assault, breach of the peace and causing public nuisance.

The protester was wearing a T-shirt ­linking him to a group called People Demand Democracy, which has named him as Yaz Ashmawi. The interloper shouted “true democracy is citizen-led” as he threw glitter at the Labour leader.

The group, who were described as “friends” by Just Stop Oil, are calling for “a fair, proportional voting system for Westminster elections”, as well as a “legally binding national House of Citizens” to be selected by ­democratic lottery.

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Sir Keir responded by saying “protest or power, this is why we changed our party” before removing his jacket, rolling his sleeves up and beginning his speech.

He claimed that the “dangerous” Tories would “scorch the earth just to get at us” and said the scale of the challenge would be immense compared with that of his predecessors.

“If you think our job in 1997 was to rebuild a crumbling public realm, that in 1964 it was to modernise an economy left behind by the pace of technology, in 1945 to build a new Britain out of the trauma of collective ­sacrifice, then in 2024 it will have to be all three,” he said.

The Labour leader said he is fighting for a “decade of national renewal”.

In a nod to New Labour, Sir Keir said the country had “13 years of ‘things can only get better’ versus 13 years of ‘things have only got worse’”.

A senior Tory source said: “He didn’t ­mention illegal immigration. He doesn’t care, anyone is welcome.”

Conservative Party chairman Greg Hands said: “Once again Sir Keir Starmer showed he would take the easy way out on Britain’s long-term challenges.

“On two of the biggest issues facing our country, Labour has nothing to say. Just as Rachel Reeves failed to mention inflation once in her speech, Sir Keir failed to say anything about how he would tackle illegal immigration.

“Instead, he committed Labour to more borrowing, which would increase inflation, and reversing Rishi Sunak’s more proportionate approach to net zero, forcing millions of families to pay up to £15,000 to upgrade their homes.

“Sir Keir just offers more of the same short-term political decision-making of the last 30 years that has failed Britain – all ­glitter, no substance.

“Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives are working to halve inflation, grow the ­economy, reduce debt, cut waiting lists and stop the boats. And only Rishi Sunak will take the long-term decisions needed to build a brighter future.”

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