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Land for House Building

Volume 555: debated on Monday 17 December 2012

15. What estimate he has made of the amount of open land required for house building in the next 20 years; and if he will make a statement. (133610)

This Government do not set top-down Whitehall housing targets. It is for elected local councils to determine, through their local plans, where development should and should not go and how best to meet housing need,.

The Labour party in government believed in effective levels of urban density and city centre development. Rather than abusing the National Trust and other big-society opponents of sprawl as Luddites, why do not Ministers end their assault on the English countryside, start working with developers to ensure that the 400,000 homes with planning permission are actually built, and end the homelessness crisis now?

I understand that the hon. Gentleman is a historian, and he should know from the previous Government’s record that at that time we saw the lowest rate of house building since the 1920s. It is important to get the affordable homes built, sometimes making sure that we use empty homes and sometimes that we build on brownfield—and yes, we will occasionally want to make sure that greenfield land is used where that is appropriate.

Wiltshire council, Swindon borough council and the local parish councils of Purton and Lydiard Millicent have, over very many years, strongly and unanimously opposed the application to build 700 houses on green fields at Ridgeway farm in my constituency, yet last week the inspector allowed it under the regional spatial strategy figures. Given that it is not in the green belt—we do not have green-belt land in Wiltshire—what can local people do to prevent unwanted developments of this kind on greenfield sites across my constituency?

My hon. Friend will know that I cannot refer directly to individual cases and he will understand the quasi-legal reason for that, but I would say that a robust local plan is absolutely the right way to do this. Sadly, under the previous Government we did not have that; we just had regional plans instead.