We are investing £235 million to bring back more than 15,000 empty properties into residential use and we have made it easier to convert empty offices into homes. As a result of those and other measures, there are over 40,000 fewer long-term empty homes than there were when the coalition Government formed.
I thank the Minister for that answer. A small number of commercial buildings in the town centres of Selby and Tadcaster have been unoccupied for several years. What are the Government doing to help the local residents and councils to bring those buildings back into use?
I am grateful for the work that my hon. Friend is doing to encourage bringing empty properties back into use. I am sure that he will be delighted with the changes to permitted development that we announced very recently. They will make it much easier for what he wants to be achieved.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that those models are a good vehicle for achieving our objective in this area. We are doing all we can to encourage them, just as we are encouraging other voluntary organisations to become actively involved in the programme that we have introduced.
Residents in Pool in Wharfedale, Yeadon, Otley and Adel are dismayed at proposals to build on green-belt land introduced by Leeds city council. Considering the number of brownfield sites and empty homes in the Leeds area, does the Minister understand that concern? Will he ensure that any housing plan from this Government will concentrate on houses to deal with the affordability crisis, not on expensive houses in greenfield areas?
The national planning policy framework makes it absolutely clear that brownfield sites, unless they are of exceptional environmental value, should be treated as a priority over greenfield sites, but, ultimately, it is for the local authority’s planning department to determine where those houses should go. We are certainly doing all we can to encourage the use of brownfield before greenfield.
On Friday, I met residents around the Barlow Fold site in Rossendale, which is a playing field given to local residents by the Barlow family for recreation. Can the Minister advise me what steps I can take to stop the borough council and Calico Homes acting in concert to develop that greenfield site, which is vital for the local community, when there are more than 30 brownfield sites in a similar area?
I encourage my hon. Friend to make use of the community rights that are available to ensure that that land has been registered as a community asset and encourage residents in the area to make use of the opportunities provided by the neighbourhood planning facilities that we have now made available.