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House Building

Volume 602: debated on Monday 9 November 2015

Housing starts have almost doubled since 2009. More than 608,000 new homes have been built since 2010, which therefore makes almost 800,000 in England since 2009. Trends in house building are published in the quarterly house building release.

I am keen to see further new housing built in my constituency but I want it built on derelict, former industrial sites, rather than on the green belt. Some of these sites are very contaminated but the Government offer funds to clean up land only for employment purposes, not for housing. Will the Minister re-examine that, because we could be enabling thousands more homes to be built?

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be joining us in the Lobby in due course when we consider the Housing and Planning Bill, which creates the new zones for the brownfield register and the brownfield fund, which the Government will be putting £1 billion into.

With the welcome increase in the number of planning applications granted for residential development, will the Minister say what assessment he has made of the number of developers who are getting the planning permission but then failing to develop out, in a practice known as “land banking”?

My hon. Friend makes a good point; we do want to see planning permissions built out. I would also like to them to be built out more quickly. We can still go a long way towards speeding up the rate at which our traditional builders develop; it is still taking, on average, 20 weeks to build a home, even though modern technology can do it in just a couple of weeks. Clearly, local authorities have to look at the land they are giving permission for, to make sure that planning permission is viable and can be built out in good time, so that land agents out there do not give the development industry a bad name.

Last week, we heard the bluster from the Minister and Secretary of State about the Government meeting the one-for-one replacement of right to buy sales. Is the Minister aware that to stay on track as a result of the increase in the right to buy, 2,300 house building starts are required per quarter, but only 300 were achieved in the first quarter of this year? The Government are therefore going to be woefully short of that target. Does he agree that it is time for a rethink and that they should copy the Scottish Government, who are building record numbers of council houses?

As I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows, here in England we built more council houses in the five years of the last Parliament than were built in the entire 13 years of Labour before that. We are very ambitious for our housing programme and we make no apologies for being very ambitious about having one extra home or more built for every home sold through right to buy. The reinvigorated scheme is on target and in London it is almost at two for one.

As a young person myself, I am acutely aware of the difficulties of getting on to the property ladder. I, too, have been struggling to get on to it for the past 10 years, because of the lack of housing that was built in 13 years of Labour. Will the Minister join me in celebrating the work that Bath and North East Somerset Council is doing in building 7,000 new homes in Bath, of which 2,300 will be affordable? He will, thus, explain how the Housing and Planning Bill will end up benefiting my local authority.

My hon. Friend makes a good point, not least about his age. I do not think anyone in this House would argue with the fact that this country has built far too few homes for far too long. We are ambitious about ensuring that we correct that. On that Bill, I suggest that he looks at the starter homes programme, where we will be looking to build some 200,000 homes for first-time buyers, at a 20% discount.