Reeves will promise to ‘restore hope’ with plan to get Britain building

Labour will revamp the UK’s “antiquated” planning system to boost the economy and modernise creaking infrastructure, Rachel Reeves will say.

The shadow chancellor will use her speech at Labour’s annual conference in Liverpool on Monday to pledge that the party will “restore hope” and “get Britain building again”.

Planning applications would be fast-tracked for battery factories, laboratories and 5G infrastructure under the proposals.

They form part of Labour’s drive to increase economic growth, which is central to Sir Keir Starmer’s aim of funding public service improvements.

Ms Reeves will tell the conference: “Labour’s task is to restore hope to our politics. The hope that lets us face the future with confidence, with a new era of economic security because there is no hope without security.”

She will say voters face the choice of “five more years of the Tory chaos and uncertainty, which has left working people worse off or a changed Labour Party ready to strengthen Britain’s foundations, so working people are better off”.

Her speech comes after Rishi Sunak cancelled the HS2 rail line north of Birmingham due to spiralling costs and repeated delays.

The shadow chancellor will claim Labour would form “a government siding with the builders not the blockers”.

Ms Reeves will say decision times for major infrastructure projects have increased by 65% since 2012, now taking four years, she will say, promising a “once-in-a-generation” set of reforms to speed this up.

The changes would include updating all national policy statements, some of which have not been revised for over a decade, within the first six months of Labour entering office.

These would detail what types of projects the country needs while weaving considerations about economic growth and net zero into the planning system, according to Labour.

Labour would also tackle time-consuming litigation by setting clearer national guidance for developers on consulting local communities and provide a menu of potential incentives such as cheaper energy bills to help local communities welcome clean energy projects.

Ms Reeves is expected to say: “If we want to spur investment, restore economic security and revive growth, then we must get Britain building again.

“The Tories would have you believe we can’t build anything any more. In fact, the single biggest obstacle to building infrastructure, to investment and to growth in this country is the Conservative Party itself.

“If the Tories won’t build, if the Tories can’t build, then we will. Taking head-on the obstacles presented by our antiquated planning system.”

As an incentive for communities to agree to critical national infrastructure on their doorsteps “they will feel the benefits, including lower energy bills”.

But the Tories criticised Labour for its recent opposition to Government plans to relax environmental rules in order to boost housebuilding.

Conservative Party chairman Greg Hands said: “If Labour had any intention of making long-term reform, they would support new building projects – instead, just weeks ago, they tried to block our plans to build 100,000 new homes.

“Labour’s only plan to grow the economy is to borrow an extra £28 billion a year, increasing debt and inflation.”

But Federation of Small Businesses chairman Martin McTague said: “The UK requires planning reform.

“This is a clear, grown-up policy that will help deliver infrastructure projects we need to stay competitive, return to growth and stop the curse of chopping and changing.”

British Chambers of Commerce director general Shevaun Haviland said: “Long-term investment in infrastructure is a key ingredient to get our economy back to growth.

“We are pleased to see a future Labour government would support the building of large-scale factories and improve our digital infrastructure, such as 5G connectivity.”

Ms Reeves will also use her speech to announce the creation of a Covid corruption commissioner to attempt to recoup some of the billions wasted during the pandemic on fraud or flawed contracts.


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