Developers deny landbanking as Miliband vows to fine building firms sitting on valuable plots

THE CONSTRUCTION industry yesterday rejected Ed Miliband’s suggestion that Britain's housing supply issues are caused by developers hoarding land, amid criticism of his willingness to confiscate land if firms that do not get building.

“We will say to private developers you can’t just sit on land and refuse to build,” the Labour leader told his party’s conference in Brighton. “We’ll give them a very clear message, either use the land or lose the land.”

But the main industry lobby group said that the first step towards boosting construction figures significantly lay in reforming the existing planning laws.

“After a number of years of significantly reduced supply, recent months have seen some confidence return and builders looking to increase their build rate – largely as a result of policies introduced by the current government,” said the Home Builders Federation. “For a sustainable increase in supply we also need to see improvements to the planning system.”

The organisation said housebuilders only had enough land stored up to build 200,000 homes in total – equivalent to just one year’s supply under Labour’s new plans.

Grainia Long, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing said Miliband’s ambitious plans was still not enough to meet demand: “We need to build 250,000 new homes a year to house our growing population comfortably but we’re currently completing less than half of that number.”

Miliband has asked former BBC chairman Sir Michael Lyons to conduct a year-long policy review into the construction sector, with the aim of ensuring that Britain is building 200,000 new homes every year by 2020.

The Labour leader has also committed to introducing a “right to grow” for new towns and the construction of entirely new garden cities on virgin land – a policy championed by former Labour minister Lord Adonis, who remains an influential figure within the party.

Writing in today’s City A.M., Adonis says local authorities need greater freedom to borrow in order to boost the construction of new affordable homes.

He also suggests towns that welcome new development should be rewarded with a “bigger share of the new property tax income they generate” in an attempt to encourage reluctant councils to grant planning permission.