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Growth Point Bids

Volume 472: debated on Tuesday 26 February 2008

New growth points are subject to the statutory regional and local planning process, and so any growth bids will be subject to robust testing and public consultation as part of the regional spatial strategy and local development framework mechanisms.

Reassuring as the Minister’s answer is, to date the growth point bid submitted for Blackpool and the Preston area has not been subject to any form of public input or consultation. Will the Minister assure me that mechanisms will be established, if that growth point bid is successful, to enable the public, at appropriate stages, to have their input before the area is irrevocably changed by the proposals in the bid?

I love conspiracy theories, too, but the idea that we are trying to promote growth point bids behind closed doors and in smoke-filled rooms is wrong—actually, because of the smoking ban, it would be illegal, too. Let me reassure the right hon. Gentleman that we will bring forward proposals shortly on the second phase of growth point bids. I reiterate my original answer: they will be subject to the full statutory planning mechanism.

My hon. Friend has been kind in listening to the hon. Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Binley) and me argue for our own growth area. Does my hon. Friend agree, on the basis of what he saw in Northampton this morning, that any extra funding allocated to the west Northamptonshire growth area would be money well spent?

I have seen a lot of my hon. Friend today. I thank her for her hospitality during my visit to Northampton this morning. I have seen the ambition and vitality in that town, of which she is a true champion. May I point out that the West Northamptonshire Development Corporation will receive more than £30.1 million over the next three years? From what I have seen today, I am sure that it will be well spent. I pay tribute, too, to the fantastic residents of the Goldings estate, whom I met at Goldcrest community room. They need to be part of the growth point process, too.

Has the Minister noticed that not one of the growth point bids for Leicestershire includes the site of the Co-operative Wholesale Society’s bid for a new town of up to 40,000 people in my constituency? Does he think that that is a coincidence?

The hon. and learned Gentleman and I have clashed over that matter on a number of occasions and he has had an Adjournment debate on the subject. I know that he is a strong champion of his community on the matter. I reiterate that growth point bids, as well as eco-town suggestions, will be brought forward very shortly and will be subject to the statutory planning mechanism.

The city of Plymouth has growth point status, which has been approved through the planning process and has the support of local people. Will the Minister tell us how in a joined-up Government we will achieve our growth targets if the Ministry of Defence closes our naval base, as was reported in The Sunday Times over the weekend?

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point about joined-up government. It is important that we concentrate on housing growth and on increasing the supply that this country so sorely needs, but it is also important that we have the infrastructure and economic base to ensure that we have sustainable communities throughout the country.

If growth point bids are to succeed, the house builders will need land. I hope that the housing ministerial team will seek to emulate their distinguished predecessor, Harold Macmillan, who built 300,000 houses a year in the 1950s. He did so by building on big gardens and green land in towns and suburbs. Those who oppose any new house building and any release of gardens and land are doing future generations a great disservice. When will the Conservative party copy Harold Macmillan and support the Government Front-Bench—