Skip to main content

Housing Development (Consultation)

Volume 516: debated on Thursday 21 October 2010

8. What guidance his Department provides to local authorities planning large housing developments in their area on consultation with residents of neighbouring local authority areas likely to be affected. (18467)

Local authorities must follow the regulations on preparing their local plans and consult widely with local people affected by proposals. They must also ensure that that public consultation has real meaning and that it is taken into account when putting local plans together.

I am grateful for that answer and I should like to push the issue of cross-border co-operation a little further. Under the Government’s new homes bonus scheme, it is reasonable to suppose that some local authorities will be tempted to build large settlements at their boundaries, where the disbenefit accrues to local authorities across the boundary. Does the Minister have any plans to ensure that the income flowing from the new homes bonus will flow across local authority boundaries where appropriate?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. First, we are introducing a duty to co-operate, so that one authority has to be talking to its neighbour in order to get its local plan signed off. Secondly, I can confirm today that the flow of new money from the new homes bonus will be some £900 million, even before top-slicing in the later years, so it will be a significant amount. In that context, there is nothing to prevent one local authority from speaking to its neighbour and saying, “Look, we’d like to build these homes here, but we recognise that this would have some impact on you there. We will come to a deal with you, and if we’re both happy it will go into our local plan.”

When a local authority has decided to take the money from the homes bonus, little though it is, at the expense of a neighbouring local authority or in the face of local opposition, whose views will take precedence—the local authority taking the money, local people, or the neighbouring local authority?

I am amused that the hon. Gentleman thinks that billions of pounds is little money: it shows how the Opposition thought about taxpayers’ money when they were in power. It is a large amount of money and it will make a significant difference. The answer—although I know this is a strange concept to Opposition Members—is something called democracy. It is called asking voters what they want and putting a local plan in place that reflects the local population’s wishes, not what the Minister wants here in Whitehall, as happened under the old regional spatial strategies.

Is my hon. Friend aware that his guidance seems to be being ignored by the Planning Inspectorate, which is insisting on making the five-year housing supply paramount in its decisions, causing great concern in Burbage and Groby in my constituency as representations are made and ignored?

It is enormously important that the Planning Inspectorate notices that there has been a change of Government and therefore changes in policy. If it is not entirely certain, we will have the localism Bill next month and I hope that that will clarify the matter once and for all.