PM’S vi­sion of New Deal for a bet­ter Bri­tain

John­son says he will har­ness the spirit na­tion showed in pan­demic to forge a new way for­ward

The Daily Telegraph - - Coronaviru­s - By Gor­don Rayner and Anna Mikhailova

BORIS JOHN­SON yes­ter­day un­veiled what he called the big­gest plan­ning rev­o­lu­tion since the Sec­ond World War as he promised to turn the coro­n­avirus cri­sis into an op­por­tu­nity to re­shape Bri­tain.

The Prime Min­is­ter said har­ness­ing the can-do spirit of the na­tion in tack­ling the virus and blend­ing it with the “su­per­hu­man en­ergy” of Cap­tain Tom Moore could pro­duce a “magic po­tion … to get us through these dark times”.

In a speech de­signed to re­cal­i­brate the Govern­ment’s fo­cus from cri­sis man­age­ment to plotting a way for­ward, Mr John­son set out how his ad­min­is­tra­tion in­tends to spend £640bil­lion over the next five years in a “New Deal” to re­store the econ­omy.

In front of an au­di­ence of just 24 at Dud­ley Col­lege of Tech­nol­ogy in the West Mid­lands, the most al­lowed by so­cial dis­tanc­ing, he warned of “tough times ahead”, but said by “be­liev­ing in Bri­tain” the na­tion could emerge stronger than ever be­fore.

Project Speed

The Prime Min­is­ter has set up a new in­fras­truc­ture unit dubbed “Project Speed” un­der Rishi Su­nak to “scythe through red tape” and en­sure ma­jor plan­ning projects get the go-ahead much faster than ever be­fore.

It will be part of the “most rad­i­cal” re­forms of the plan­ning sys­tem in 70 years, Mr John­son said, and will sweep away ob­sta­cles stand­ing in the way of developmen­t.

It will be­come eas­ier to get per­mis­sion to turn com­mer­cial build­ings into res­i­den­tial homes with­out re­quir­ing change of use per­mis­sion, and it will also be­come eas­ier to de­velop brown­field sites, which Mr John­son said will make way for “fan­tas­tic new homes”.

Builders will no longer need a nor­mal plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion to de­mol­ish and re­build va­cant and re­dun­dant res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial build­ings if they are re­built as homes.

Pubs, li­braries and vil­lage shops will not be cov­ered by the changes as they are “es­sen­tial to the lifeblood of com­mu­ni­ties”.

It will also be pos­si­ble to build more space above prop­er­ties through a fast­track plan­ning sys­tem, sub­ject to neigh­bour con­sul­ta­tion.

Cit­ing the fact that HS2 was cost­ing the equiv­a­lent of the GDP of Sri Lanka, and that Cross­rail took 35 years to be­come a re­al­ity, Mr John­son said that “time is money” and so de­lays in the plan­ning sys­tem must be min­imised.

He railed against “newt-count­ing de­lays” where wildlife sur­veys can take months or longer to com­plete and said that as well as build­ing faster, he would “build a more beau­ti­ful Bri­tain” with devel­op­ments that are more in tune with their sur­round­ings.

Mr John­son also hinted at pos­si­ble developmen­t on green­field sites, say­ing that as well as brown­field sites the Govern­ment would use “other ar­eas that with bet­ter trans­port and other in­fras­truc­ture could frankly be suit­able and right for developmen­t”.

A hous­ing rev­o­lu­tion

Mr John­son crit­i­cised the “chronic fail­ure of the Bri­tish state” to build enough homes, “decade after decade”, and said he would “ad­dress in­ter­gen­er­a­tional in­jus­tice” by en­sur­ing young peo­ple could get on the hous­ing lad­der “like their par­ents and grand­par­ents could”.

He con­firmed a £12 bil­lion af­ford­able homes pro­gramme that will sup­port up to 180,000 new af­ford­able homes in Eng­land over the next eight years.

But Labour sug­gested the pol­icy had been wa­tered down, as the time frame for build­ing the new homes had been set at five years in the last Bud­get.

The homes pro­gramme will in­clude a 1,500-unit pi­lot of “First Homes” which will be sold to first-time buy­ers at a 30 per cent dis­count.

The Govern­ment re­mains com­mit­ted to its tar­get of build­ing 300,000 homes per year to end the hous­ing cri­sis, Mr John­son said. This would partly be achieved by his plan­ning rev­o­lu­tion cut­ting hold-ups and ob­sta­cles.

Trans­port and in­fras­truc­ture

As well as ma­jor projects such as HS2 and North­ern Pow­er­house Rail, Mr John­son said the big­gest in­fras­truc­ture projects would in­clude du­alling the A1 to Scot­land – first pro­posed in 1992 – and build­ing the 40 new hos­pi­tals he has pre­vi­ously promised.

He would also “un­block the cen­tral Manch­ester bot­tle­neck that de­lays ser­vices across the north” and fund 4,000 new zero-car­bon buses and a “mas­sive new plan for cy­cle­ways”.

He said “now is the mo­ment” to strengthen trans­port links be­tween the four coun­tries of the UK. This will in­clude a fea­si­bil­ity study into a bridge be­tween North­ern Ire­land and main­land Bri­tain, Down­ing Street con­firmed. Mr John­son has al­ready an­nounced a 10-year schools re­build­ing pro­gramme, with £1bil­lion for the first 50 projects be­gin­ning next year.

A sci­en­tific su­per­power

Mr John­son said while Bri­tain was “no longer a mil­i­tary su­per­power” it could be­come a “science su­per­power” by in­vest­ing in re­search and developmen­t.

In an echo of John F Kennedy’s chal­lenge to the US to be first to the Moon, Mr John­son threw down the gaunt­let to Bri­tish firms to build the world’s first zero-emis­sions long-haul aero­plane.

He said: “As part of our mis­sion to reach net zero CO2 emis­sions by 2050, we should set our­selves the goal … Jet Zero – let’s do it!” He added it was time to “end the chasm be­tween in­no­va­tion and ap­pli­ca­tion” by en­sur­ing ideas born in Bri­tain did not end up as a com­mer­cial suc­cess in the US or China.

A new science fund­ing agency will back “high risk, high re­ward projects” and an Of­fice for Tal­ent will be set up in No 10 to make it eas­ier for world-lead­ing sci­en­tists and in­no­va­tors to come to the UK.

Op­por­tu­nity guar­an­tee for those whose jobs are gone

Mr John­son ad­mit­ted that there would be “tough times ahead” and that “as the econ­omy re­cov­ers we know that the jobs that many peo­ple had in Jan­uary are not com­ing back”.

He said: “We are wait­ing as if be­tween the flash of light­ning and the thun­der­clap with our hearts in our mouths for the full eco­nomic re­ver­ber­a­tions [of coro­n­avirus] to ap­pear.”

He also said that “we know in our hearts that the fur­lough­ing can­not go on for­ever” but gave an “op­por­tu­nity guar­an­tee” to ev­ery young per­son to en­sure an ap­pren­tice­ship or in-work place­ment to help them gain the skills and con­fi­dence to find a new job.

Mr John­son added the Govern­ment would help to cre­ate “thou­sands of high-paid, high-skilled jobs” by sup­port­ing Bri­tish firms that make com­mer­cial breakthrou­ghs.

I am not a Com­mu­nist

Mr John­son ad­mit­ted his “New Deal”, in­spired by Franklin D Roosevelt’s re­cov­ery plan for De­pres­sion-era Amer­ica, “sounds like a prodi­gious amount of govern­ment in­ter­ven­tion”, and felt the need to clar­ify: “I am not a Com­mu­nist.” He said that as well as clap­ping NHS work­ers, the Govern­ment also clapped “in­no­va­tors, wealth creators, cap­i­tal­ists and fi­nanciers” but added that a huge pro­gramme of State-funded schemes was “what the times de­mand”.

He said he wanted to head “a Govern­ment that is pow­er­ful and de­ter­mined and that puts its arms around peo­ple at a time of cri­sis, that tack­les home­less­ness, the in­equal­i­ties that drive peo­ple to food banks”.

Wait-and-see on tax rises

Mr John­son promised there would be no re­turn to aus­ter­ity to pay for his grand plans, say­ing “we won’t cheese­p­are our way out of trou­ble” and said he would not stage a “puni­tive raid on wealth creators”.

But he did not rule out tax rises for the wealthy when asked how the coun­try was even­tu­ally go­ing to pay back the money it will have to bor­row.

It was pointed out to him that Roosevelt had to tax the wealthy to pay for his New Deal. He said: “I think you should re­ally wait to see what the Chan­cel­lor has to say in the course of the next few weeks and months but I re­main ab­so­lutely de­ter­mined to en­sure that the tax bur­den, in­so­far as we pos­si­bly can, is rea­son­able.”

He also hinted at pos­si­ble pay rises for NHS work­ers.

‘I want to head a Govern­ment that is pow­er­ful and de­ter­mined and puts its arms around peo­ple in a time of cri­sis’

Boris John­son also vis­ited the con­struc­tion site of the new Dud­ley In­sti­tute of Tech­nolo­gies on his visit to the West Mid­lands

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