Labour was accused of adopting a “Stalinist” approach to planning after Ed Miliband unveiled measures to extend towns into the countryside and seize land back from developers who are not building houses.
The party leader wants to force rural councils to allow major development in the countryside to stop them “strangling” towns and cities that are trying to expand, his aides said.
Towns would be given “a right to grow” even when development is opposed by neighbouring local authorities responsible for planning decisions.
Mr Miliband would also allow councils to buy back land being “hoarded” by developers waiting for prices to go up.
He signalled the plans in a conference speech that critics said indicated a renewed Left-wing agenda that would extend state power into people’s lives.
Under the scheme to boost house-building, neighbouring town halls at loggerheads over development would be forced to come up with “joint plans”.
Controversial decisions would then be fast-tracked to prevent disputes causing delays to building programmes.
Labour aides insisted that the party does not want to “concrete over the countryside” but added: “You have to build houses somewhere.”
Sir Michael Lyons, a former BBC Trust chairman, is leading a commission for Labour setting out proposals to build 200,000 new homes a year by 2020.
Mr Miliband also wants to build a new generation of garden cities, echoing Gordon Brown’s failed attempt to impose nearly a dozen eco-towns across middle England in 2008.
Labour wants to hand local authorities strengthened compulsory purchase powers so that they can buy and grant planning permission on land held back by developers.
Councils could also be given the power to charge developers if they acquire land with planning permission but do not build on it immediately. Graeme Leach, the chief economist at the Institute of Directors, said: “Mr Miliband’s ‘use it or lose it’ declaration is a Stalinist attack on property rights.
“The fundamental problem with the housing market is the public-sector planning system, not private-sector builders. It’s hard to imagine a more statist solution to a problem caused by the state.”
Fiona Howie, the head of planning at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “We are concerned about ‘right to grow’. It is unclear how an authority would be able to demand neighbouring authorities drop opposition to proposals. Such language doesn’t lend clarity and sounds like a return to regional planning.”
However, the CPRE welcomed Mr Miliband’s commitment “to look at the UK’s dysfunctional housing market and try to get badly needed houses built”.