House building
Labour plans major house building programmeReuters

Ed Miliband has unveiled the next stage of Labour's housing policy with a pledge to create the next generation of new towns and garden cities.

He's also promised a programme to build 200,000 new homes a year by 2020.

The UK is currently locked in a housing crisis, with a crippling shortage of homes, rising prices and escalating rents, particularly in and around London.

Miliband has already promised a major house building programme and a "use it or lose it" approach to developers who store land in prospect of making greater profits when the economy improves.

Now he has promised to provide the "political will" that has previously been missing to create the homes desperately needed around the country.

And, along with a claim that climate change is now a national emergency requiring a serious and comprehensive response, he has said any new homes built will have to be resilient to flooding and other environmental factors.

"A key plank will be creating new towns in sustainable locations where people want to live, just like earlier generations did in places such as Stevenage and Milton Keynes," he wrote in the Evening Standard.

"Labour will kick-start the next generation of new towns and garden cities around the capital to ease the pressure on London."

Miliband also repeated his pledge to stop local councils blocking needed development planned by neighbouring councils under "right to grow" schemes which, he said, could lead to 40,000 new homes in London.

Any land with planning permission but being left undeveloped could be compulsorily purchased under the "use it or lose it" plan.

Developers will also be banned from advertising properties to rent outside the UK first, councils will be able to levy double council tax on empty for-rent properties and a national register of good landlords will be created.

The ambitious plans are not the first time Labour has proposed the creation of new towns. The last government planned for up to 10 so-called sustainable eco-towns and in 2009 announced four successful bids.

But after the change in government the scheme was drastically cut back and only one, in Oxfordshire, has so far been approved in line with the original proposals.

Meanwhile, after prime minister David Cameron gave a speech two years ago supporting new towns there have been claims he has since cooled on the idea, fearing a backlash in Tory heartlands. The Liberal Democrats also reportedly believe they take too long to build.

However, the government has pointed to an increase in house building of late, aided by its "help to buy scheme".