Angela Rayner: We’ll build a generation of Milton Keynes-style new towns

Angela Rayner is Labour's shadow housing minister as well as its deputy leader
Angela Rayner is Labour's shadow housing minister as well as its deputy leader - Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Angela Rayner will pledge on Tuesday that Labour will create a new generation of Milton Keynes-style towns to help meet its target to build 1.5 million homes.

Labour’s deputy leader will say that, under her party’s plans, the new urban areas will have tree-lined streets, nice parks, beautiful buildings – and will have to consist of at least 40 per cent “affordable” properties.

The new towns will provide “swathes” of houses and will help “turbo-charge growth”, she will say, speaking at the UK Real Estate Investment and Infrastructure Forum, a property industry conference.

She will point to Labour’s record in government after the Second World War, saying the “foundations of our past” are the inspiration for the proposals. Ms Rayner, who is also shadow housing secretary, will pledge to back “developers who deliver”.

She will say: “Labour’s new towns are just one part of our ambitious house-building agenda which will see swathes of good quality, affordable houses built in the national interest.

Developers who deliver on their obligations to build high quality, well designed and sustainable affordable housing, with green spaces and transport links and schools and GPs surgeries nearby, will experience a new dawn under Labour.

“But those who have wriggled out of their responsibilities for too long will be robustly held to account.”

‘Building on the foundations of the past’

Aerial shots of the town of Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire
Aerial shots of the town of Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire - iStockphoto

Ms Rayner will add: “Labour’s towns of the future will be built on the foundations of our past. The post-war period taught us that when the government plays a strategic role in housebuilding, we can turbo-charge growth to the benefit of working people across Britain. That is what Labour’s plans will achieve.”

Labour kickstarted the era of new towns in 1946, a year after the end of the Second World War, when Stevenage was chosen for reconstruction. Over the coming years, an original small village was surrounded by thousands of homes – and its population is now 90,000.

Clement Attlee’s government also sanctioned a number of other new towns, including Crawley, Hemel Hempstead, Harlow, Basildon and Corby.

The most famous new town of them all – Milton Keynes – was begun in 1967, under the Labour government of Harold Wilson.

Ms Rayner will tell the conference that a Labour government will set high standards on design, quality, affordable homes, green spaces and infrastructure.

Milton Keynes is well known for its concrete cows
Milton Keynes is well known for its concrete cows - Gary Dawson

A “new towns code” will mean that each new development must deliver 40 per cent affordable properties, with a mix of social, council, and other tenures.

‘Characterful design and beautiful buildings’

The code will demand characterful design, with beautiful buildings and tree-lined streets that fit in with nearby areas and pay attention to local history and identity. It will require good links to town and city centres, as well as decent healthcare and schools.

And the code will insist on access to nature and parks, embedded greenery, and new facilities for children to play and families to exercise.

Labour has blamed the Conservatives for a low level of housing planning approvals in recent years.

Housebuilding has risen since the last election – with 202,300 new homes started in 2022-23 compared to 187,870 in 2019-20 – to reach levels last seen just before the financial crash.

But planning applications have fallen since the middle of 2022. Labour blames the planning system and the Government’s decision to scrap mandatory housing targets in the face of backbench pressure.

When Sir Keir Starmer set out his “first steps” for a Labour government last week, housing was not explicitly mentioned in the pledge card, but the Labour leader said it would feed into the party’s commitment to create economic stability.