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Public Sector Land

Volume 597: debated on Monday 29 June 2015

Over the course of this Parliament, the Government are committed to releasing public sector land with capacity for up to 150,000 homes. Selling surplus land plays an important role in delivering the Government’s ambitious housing programme, as it releases land supply to the market for starter homes and other initiatives.

Given the importance of protecting the green belt in areas such as my constituency of Aldridge-Brownhills, what assistance is being given to local authorities to identify public sector land for development and thus further safeguard our precious green belt?

My hon. Friend makes a good point on protecting the green belt, which we have done through the national planning policy framework. My now boss outlined the process during the passage of the Localism Act 2011. We are committed to ensuring that the Government release public land as an important part of that process, and that 90% of our brownfield land has its planning permission in place by 2020.

My hon. Friend will be acutely aware of the concern of many of my constituents about the potential loss of our green belt thanks to excessive housing targets set by Leeds council, but the release of public sector land would help to save those important sites. What measures are available to meet the remediation costs so that developers cannot say that such sites are not viable?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. It was a pleasure to visit him in his constituency and to talk to residents about these issues. It is important that we get public sector land released. With regard to brownfield sites, we have the housing zones programme in place. We have announced that, later this year, we will go into more detail about the brownfield fund, which will be aimed specifically at such details. I will happily meet him and his local councillors to see whether we can help take things forward.

There is a significant disparity in the rate of public sector development across the United Kingdom. Will the Minister undertake to hold discussions with the relevant Ministers in each of the devolved Assemblies and Parliaments to ensure that residents in each of the parts of the UK get maximum bang for their buck?

The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. Ministers are talking all the time; the Secretary of State has been very clear about driving the matter forward. He wants all Departments to deliver to ensure that we get to 150,000 homes. I am happy to look at what he suggests. If we can work with the devolved authorities to ensure that residents right across the United Kingdom benefit, I will be happy to do so.

Figures from a recent National Audit Office report showed that the Government were so desperate to inflate their record on the disposal of public land for new homes that they included land released as long ago as 1997 by the Labour Government. Will the Minister tell the House how on earth the Government propose to reach the higher target of 150,000 homes with no one else’s record to plunder?

I gently say to the hon. Lady that the programme that I outlined in the previous Parliament consisted of land that was built on or disposed of between 2011 and 2015. We have set an ambitious target of 150,000 homes for this Parliament, which we must reach, and I hope that she will support us in doing that. Let me gently point out to her that I am somewhat prouder of this Government’s record of delivering some 23,000 homes a year through public sector land than I would be of the Labour record of 1,000 homes a year.