Shadow minister: “We need a rescue package for the planning system”

Will Neill
Sky News

Labour’s shadow minister for housing and planning Matthew Pennycook said at LabourList fringe event this week that the country needs a “rescue package for the planning system” to solve the housing crisis.

Pennycook was speaking on a panel alongside the deputy London mayor for housing Tom Copley, the i paper’s housing correspondent Vicky Spratt, and The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s principal policy adviser Darren Baxter at Labour’s annual conference in Liverpool.

Labour announced its ambitious plans to build 1.5 million more homes, suggesting it will take on the “not in my back yards’ (NIMBYs) by “bulldozing” restrictive planning rules and construct a wave of new towns if elected. 

Pennycook argued at the panel, run by LabourList and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, that a Labour government “won’t unlock opportunities for all, we won’t achieve net zero, if we don’t get this sorted”. He said that “for decades we haven’t built enough houses in this country… we have to build more affordable social renting homes”. 

Pennycook also argued that the NIMBY vs YIMBY debate was “reductive and not helpful, there will always be people opposing housing development full stop, we will take these people on”. 

Copely agreed, arguing that “housing is foundational and fundamental” and that “if we start cracking that in the first hundred days, it will be crucial to the rest of Labour’s agenda”. Copely noted that ’we are in the process of setting up a city hall developer – potential of this all to come together, opportunity is huge”. 

Baxter similarly argued that “any government after an election next year, are going to be inheriting an even worse crisis,” and that a Labour govenrment would have to implement “institutional capacity to drive this forward”. 

The i paper’s housing correspondent Spratt added: “The most pressing thing for me is about renting, and I think that has been a little bit missing at conference. What do we do now that renters are spending their highest proportion of income in history on rent? I think we are in a real bind.”

Pennycook said he wanted to stay on as a housing minister if Labour was elected, saying: “I do genuinely want to stay in this role. I want to see it through.”

He argued that “it sits under so many of our missions… We’ve had thirteen housing ministers, it’s hugely destabilising, trying get them up to speed, making sure they are aware of policy decisions”.

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