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Sustainable Development

Volume 571: debated on Monday 25 November 2013

I thank the Minister for that brief answer. He visited north Leeds and Wharfedale—and we were pleased to have him—an area facing the prospect of hundreds of new homes at a time when there are already congested roads and not enough school places, doctors and dentists. What more will he and the Department do to ensure we have genuine sustainable development that includes all those things before houses are built?

I understand that the local plan submitted by Leeds council is now under examination. That process will test whether the provisions for infrastructure are adequate to support the level of development the council has decided it needs. He and his constituents will have every opportunity to put their case as to why they need investment in more infrastructure to support proposed development.

I am sure the Minister will agree that one of the important principles for achieving sustainable development is the brownfield first policy contained in the core planning policies and principles of the NPPF. I think the Minister is also aware that developers are using paragraph 47 of the NPPF to claim that brownfield sites are not deliverable because they are not viable, which is causing authorities to look at more and more greenfield sites for their five-year housing supply. Does the Minister agree that that effectively undermines the brownfield first policy in the NPPF? What is he going to do about it?

I have the greatest respect for the hon. Gentleman, the Chair of the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government, who is knowledgeable about all these subjects, but I do not share his concern that the position is somehow being undermined. The NPPF is clear that brownfield land that is of low environmental quality should be preferred. That is a better policy than that of the Government he supported, which favoured all brownfield land, including back gardens, and led to garden grabbing on a scale we had never before seen.

Given the Minister’s comments, does he agree that Telford and Wrekin council should not be building on greenfield sites in Wellington or Newport in my constituency, but should be building on the preferred brownfield sites in both those towns?

My hon. Friend will understand that I cannot comment on particular proposals by a particular council, but I can say that every council will want to look at all brownfield land—

I apologise, Mr Speaker. I hope my hon. Friend will not mind having to look at the back of my head while I answer his question. His council will of course be looking at every brownfield site to identify those ready for development. It may be the case that in some circumstances some brownfield sites require huge investment in either infrastructure or decontamination and are therefore not appropriate for development, but the preference will always be to use brownfield sites.

May I press the Minister on that? Do his criteria for sustainable development include building hundreds if not thousands of one-bedroom apartments for students, as is the case in my constituency, and none for elderly people? What kind of policy is it when students are looked after, but elderly people have nowhere to go?

The hon. Gentleman will understand that it is the responsibility of his council to assess all housing needs for students and other people, and to make adequate provision. That is what councils should be doing through their local plans. I am sure he is influencing his council strongly on its plan.