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New Growth Point Status

Volume 447: debated on Tuesday 20 June 2006

The Government's response to the Barker review published last December indicated that we would need to go significantly beyond the communities plan and existing growth areas if we were to increase house-building to the levels necessary to meet household projections and improve affordability. To help do that we launched the new growth points scheme inviting local partners to come forward with proposals for housing growth, linked into their wider strategies for economic growth, for town centre renewal, for regeneration as well as for meeting local need for homes.

We have had over 20 bids including more than 50 local authorities. If all these bids were realised we would secure an extra 8,000 to 10,000 homes per year, 80,000 in total by 2016, in addition to existing plans and the existing growth areas. We have a good spread across several regions from the south-west to the west and east midlands as well as from the east and south-east. Every region is now experiencing household growth and rising housing demand. Therefore it is right that bids to support housing and job growth should be considered from different regions and assessed according to their local circumstances.

The Government are publishing today a list of those individual applications for which we have a full proposal and which will now be the basis of more detailed discussions over the next few weeks. In some of these proposals there remain important issues to resolve affecting transport and the environment. We will need to be assured that solutions can be found and that they will be delivered at the right time to address the impacts of the additional housing. There will of course also need to be public consultation on these proposals, as they go forward for consideration and testing in the statutory planning process through the relevant regional spatial strategy and the local development framework process. This will include regional sustainability appraisal and local assessment of individual schemes as they come forward.

This very encouraging response from local partners demonstrates that many of our regional towns and cities want to grow, want to become more attractive places for businesses to invest and to retain their young people who want to find a home. This initiative is about creating a partnership for growth in which both Government and local partners can be confident that we are working to the same goals.

In going forward we also need to ensure that this growth is sustainable and well planned, acceptable environmentally and realistic in terms of infrastructure, particularly transport. The new growth proposals will need to demonstrate a good balance between homes and jobs and improved environmental sustainability. Indeed, the new growth points scheme is a significant opportunity for these locations to become exemplars of sustainable development. This includes the ability to enhance and extend green infrastructure—both green spaces and conservation sites—and to build more sustainable homes to high standards of design, with less demand on resources and with the right provision for water supply, treatment and flood risk. We will need to be assured that pressures on transport can be realistically managed, where necessary including demand management. In taking forward these proposals for more detailed assessment we will continue to work closely with colleagues across Government including the Department for Transport, DEFRA, the Environment Agency, Natural England and CABE to look at these issues in more detail.

In some cases also we need to look again at whether the level of growth is sufficient, taking account of the most recent household projections. We have an ageing, growing population and house building rates are simply not meeting this rising demand. We need to build more homes in all parts of the country, but that growth must be sustainable. Unless we build more homes across the board we face increasing problems of overcrowding, homelessness and pressures on first-time buyers.

In October we will make a more detailed announcement on the individual growth point schemes, including those which will receive a share of an initial £40 million pilot funding round in 2007-08 to support early site infrastructure projects, unlock sites for new housing and improve the environment. To give local authorities more freedom in how this funding is applied Government are proposing to include it in local area agreements which will give local partners extra flexibility in managing the programme locally. In addition, the Government are undertaking a cross-cutting review of infrastructure requirements for housing as part of the comprehensive spending review and have consulted on a planning gain supplement to support this housing growth in the future.

For our partners in this scheme this is intended to be the beginning of a stronger long term relationship with Government and links to our approach on city regions as well as giving all partners greater encouragement to co-operate locally to secure sustainable growth.

Applications being taken forward:

East Midlands

“The three Cities Bid”—Leicester/Derby/Nottingham

Lincoln, Grantham and Newark

West Midlands

Birmingham/ Solihull

East of England

Norwich, Haven Gateway (Colchester/Ipswich) and Thetford/Breckland

South East

Reading, Oxford (city), Didcot, Basingstoke, Maidstone and Redhill/Horley

Partnership for Urban South Hampshire

South West

Bristol (West of England Partnership—four unitary authorities)

Swindon

Exeter

Plymouth

Truro/Carrick

Poole

In addition to these locations we remain in discussion with other applicants who may be able to join the scheme at a later date.