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New Growth Points and Zero Carbon Development

Volume 457: debated on Wednesday 7 March 2007

Local authorities have been making very encouraging progress in working up specific proposals in the new growth points scheme. Over 45 towns and cities have been included in the scheme, which we believe should make a major contribution to achieving sustainable long-term growth. We will be reviewing the growth points scheme, whose purpose is to provide additional funding for infrastructure and delivery support, to take account of the outcome of each regional spatial strategy (RSS), and to consider with local partners our future strategy on growth points.

In addition, local partners are already developing proposals for small new settlements linked to larger towns and cities using high-quality public transport including at Cambridge (Northstowe), and the new growth point at Exeter, as well as proposals in other regions.

We must cut carbon emissions to tackle climate change—and housing has a major role to play. Building the new homes we need across the country is a prime opportunity to harness new technology and drive up environmental standards.

Therefore, the Government will be prepared to support proposals of this type as part of the new growth points scheme providing they are exemplar ‘green’ developments which meet the highest standards of sustainability in terms of the environment and climate change. They should also make use of brownfield and surplus public sector land. Proposals should focus on zero carbon or low carbon new developments of 5,000 to 10,000 homes—communities which should be big enough to support significant employment, a strong town centre and good public services. To help in the development of individual proposals and other preparatory work, we are making up to £2 million available through the growth points scheme in 2007-08. A decision on further funding for small new settlements will be made in the context of CSR 07.

As with other new growth points we will want to work closely with partners across Government including the Department for Transport and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Environment Agency and Natural England in assessing possible schemes and with English Partnerships on delivery. Proposals would also need to support mixed communities and affordable housing. In order to ensure we learn from the lessons of the past and draw on best practice here and overseas, we are asking Professor David Lock, chair of the TCPA, to provide further advice on the practical application of the key sustainability and development criteria for schemes of this kind, including carbon use, transport, services and community development, and to let us have a report on this later this year.

As with new growth points, any proposal of this type will need to be considered through the statutory planning system and be subject to consultation and testing by independent examination, and it is important that the RSS process gives a view on proposals of this type.

We expect schemes of this type to make an important contribution to helping to increase housing supply, particularly in the high pressure regions, as we indicated in the Government’s response to the Barker review on housing supply, published in December 2005. PPS 3, the Government’s statement of housing policy, which we announced in November 2006, gives local authorities greater flexibility in the planning and delivery of the homes needed for their areas, with a number of choices available at a regional and local level to accommodate growth. Where need and demand are high, new settlements are one of several important options for the future distribution of housing growth.

We will be making a further announcement later in the year about the detailed criteria for supporting proposals and how we can further encourage new thinking on highest quality in services, design, transport and environmental sustainability and, in particular, take an innovative approach to large-scale zero carbon development.