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Volume 602: debated on Monday 9 November 2015

Significant progress has been made over the past few years on speeding up the planning system, to the extent that some 242,000 homes were given planning permission in the year to June 2015. The Housing and Planning Bill will further improve the performance of the planning system right across the country.

House building is a key element of Havant Borough Council’s economic growth plan, Prosperity Havant. Will the Minister join me in congratulating the council on increasing the number of new homes being built in recent years through working in partnership with local developers and communities?

I am happy to thank my hon. Friend’s local authority for taking such a pro-growth, pro-housing approach. It is good to see local councils and others in the local area coming together to work out their housing needs and doing their best to provide for their local residents.

When will the Minister wake up to the fact that many people in this country are desperate for a home? When will he stop blaming planning and show some leadership? What has happened in Ebbsfleet? It was supposed to become a new town, but it has only a tiny number of Barratt-built homes. Why is it not thriving? Why are there not tens of thousands of new homes there?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving his support to Ebbsfleet; it is a shame that nothing happened there in a decade and more of Labour rule. I am proud that this Government, and this Chancellor, have put the money into Ebbsfleet, and into the infrastructure there, to enable those homes to be built.

I support my district councils in their desire to deliver thousands of new homes. Would the Minister be willing to support ideas in planning that could up-front infrastructure delivery, such as requiring developers to pay community infrastructure levy moneys from the point at which planning permission is granted?

I am always willing to look at new ideas, and I would be happy to meet my hon. Friend to look at that one. The one challenge for the community infrastructure levy is that the local authorities should pool it so that they can use it within their authority areas. His proposal might not lend itself to that in the way that a section 106 arrangement would, but we are committed to reviewing the levy and I look forward to liaising with him and to hearing his views.

As the Minister knows, there is a long-standing chronic shortage of good planners and an over-reliance on consultants. Has he found any real solution to that problem?

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. Local authorities should view their planning departments as the heartbeat of economic regeneration in their communities in terms of designing and building for businesses and homes. I would encourage local authorities to work together and to share services in the same way that some have shared chief executives and other parts of their management structure. They have not done that so much with planning yet, but that would be a good step towards building a strong resource.

Community and business leaders in my constituency are concerned that the lack of an agreed five-year housing supply in Cheshire East means that a presumption in favour of housing development is overriding the designation of much-needed land for employment. Given the Government’s provision of £45 million for a Congleton link road to help promote jobs and growth, will Ministers meet me and community representatives urgently to discuss this matter?

I encourage my hon. Friend’s area to get their five-year land supply and their local plan in place as quickly as possible, to make sure that local residents have their voice and the protections that are right for them. When planning decisions are made, both by the local authority and by the inspectors, environmental and other policy constraints in that area will be looked at, but I am happy to meet her and her local council.