Tag Archives: Chancellor

Hammond to announce Green Belt land release in first Autumn budget?


The Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, is understood to be pushing for major planning reforms which would free up some Green Belt land for housing. While hoping for that might be unrealistic we might expect some bold news.

Hammond is under pressure to perform at the inaugural Autumn statement, due on Wednesday 22 November. He has been arguing to the Cabinet for several months that some countryside should be reclassified as part of a wider package that could facilitate borrowing to fund house-building. As MP for a Green Belt constituency, it’s certainly a bold idea.

The proposed measures have been backed by backbench MP Jacob Rees-Mogg. However, building on Green Belt land is still seen as politically toxic and many Conservative councillors were elected on manifestos which pledged to resist Green Belt development. Theresa May has recognised the political implications of such a radical move and has insisted the Green Belt will be kept firmly off the agenda on budget day.

So it looks like Hammond won’t be able to get his way, even if the chronic shortage of housing across the country inevitably means some areas of land will need to be released from the Green Belt. The Chancellor will therefore have to come up with some alternative vote-winning ideas which could help the Conservatives demonstrate that they are in touch with the younger generation.

A few policies have already been floated, such as introducing new legislation that would allow councils to borrow to kick-start housebuilding. This was suggested by Sajid Javid a few weeks ago in a move which made him look like he was lobbying the Chancellor live on national television. Axing stamp duty for first-time buyers has also been mentioned, as has reducing tax relief on older workers to fund a subsidy for workers in their twenties and thirties. We’ve also seen calls from some think tanks proposing a significant property tax on second homes to pay for more affordable build and extending central government borrowing to provide necessary infrastructure.

With little funding to play with the Chancellor does not have a lot of room to manoeuvre financially, as well as having to walk a political tightrope. Whatever is announced on 22 November, all eyes will be on Hammond. We will be monitoring the budget closely to see which way the Chancellor moves.