FILLING empty homes and developing brownfield sites should be prioritised over building on beloved green belt land, a councillor has insisted after the new Government unveiled its plan to tackle the housing crisis.

The UK’s first female Chancellor, Rachel Reeves, has proposed to build 1.5 million homes over the next five years and create a new taskforce to “accelerate stalled housing sites” in the country.

The announcement by the country’s new Labour Government yesterday has sparked fears that green belt land could be targeted to build thousands of much-needed homes in south Essex.

Ms Belton, Conservative councillor on Rochford District Council, believes the Government should focus on helping to fill long-term empty homes and target previously developed brownfield sites while still protecting the green belt.

She said: “For me, it’s extremely disappointing to have these mandatory targets back. For Rochford, it was positive when the targets were removed.

“By them coming back, we could now be forced to build thousands of homes on green belt. We are going to be forced to build houses that we don’t need for local people, which will bring an influx of people from surrounding areas.

“Right now, we have a housing waiting list and have more than 1,000 empty homes that could be occupied. We also have brownfield sites. It means we can protect the green belt and still look after people in the district.

“We need to be focused on filling the big number of empty homes we have before building new ones. It is disappointing only three days after a new government being appointed, our green belt appears to be at greater risk.”

In a speech, the chancellor emphasised the need to get “Britain building again” and promised to fulfil the party’s manifesto commitment of building 1.5 million homes.

“We’re not in the business of reneging on our manifesto commitments,” she said in her first speech as chancellor after Labour won the general election last Thursday.

“We’ve received that strong mandate. We’re going to deliver on that mandate.”

In addition to restoring the housing targets, Rachel Reeves has announced she will end the onshore wind farm ban, prioritise brownfield and grey belt land for development and appoint 300 additional planning officers across the country.