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Planning Permission

Volume 617: debated on Monday 28 November 2016

2. How many planning permissions were granted in the most recent period for which figures are available. (907495)

Some 100,900 planning permissions were granted in the quarter April to June 2016. This is a 6% increase on the same quarter in 2015. However, people cannot live or work in planning permissions, so developers need to move ahead to build.

What measures can be brought forward to get developers who are sitting on land with planning permission to get building? When I say “get building”, I do not mean four or five-bedroom detached properties, but two and three-bedroom properties that are affordable to my constituents?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. We are clear that sites with planning permission should move ahead without delay, and we are taking steps to speed up development through our Neighbourhood Planning Bill and the new £3 billion home building fund. In addition, the national planning policy framework expects councils to plan for a mix of housing to meet local needs.

Planning permissions mean absolutely nothing if homes are not actually built. Can the Secretary of State confirm the figures that were released last week, which show that just over 141,000 homes were built in the year to September 2016—20% lower than the 176,000 that were built at the peak under Labour in 2007?

It is true that under the previous Labour Government, housing starts fell to their lowest level since the 1920s, and I can also confirm that the housing supply numbers for the latest year available are up by 9%.

Does the Secretary of State understand the anger and disappointment felt throughout Sutton Coldfield at his decision last week to back Labour’s wholly unnecessary plans to build on Sutton Coldfield’s green belt? Does he realise that this is a breach of the Conservative party’s election manifesto and his own words from just a few weeks ago? Does he now understand that we will seek to oppose his decision by all legal means and amend future legislation to give the protection that he has shown himself unable to provide?

My right hon. Friend has been a passionate and committed campaigner on this issue, and I respect that tremendously. The Government placed a hold on the Birmingham local plan precisely because they value the green belt: it is very, very special. However, when a local community has come forward with a robust plan, has looked at all the alternatives, has considered its housing needs and has prioritised brownfield sites, and when the independent planning inspectorate has said that the plan conforms to all the rules and regulations, the Government have no valid reason to stand in the way.

Where on earth does the Secretary of State get his figures from? According to his Department’s own official figures—I have them here—there were 140,000 fewer permissions last year than in the peak year under Labour. More important is the fact that, as he says, people cannot live in planning permissions; what they really need are decent, affordable homes. Will he tell us how many new affordable homes were built in this country last year?

Unlike the right hon. Gentleman, I get my figures from the Office for National Statistics. According to the ONS, housing supply amounted to 189,650 additional homes in 2015-16, which is an increase of 11%, and the level is the highest for eight years. I believe that when the right hon. Gentleman was the Housing Minister, housing starts fell to their lowest level since the 1920s.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about affordable homes. We have provided more money for affordable homes than any previous Parliament, and there has been an increase of 304,000 since 2010.

Those figures are just not accurate. Even if we include the money that has been announced, the Government’s investment in new affordable homes over the current Parliament is still only half the level of Labour’s investment in its last year in office. The number of new affordable homes built last year was the lowest for 24 years, notwithstanding 750 separate announcements on affordable housing since 2010. This is a disaster for families who are struggling to cope with housing costs. When will we—after six years of failure—see a serious plan to help people on ordinary incomes with housing to rent and buy, and when will we see a proper Government plan to fix the housing crisis?

What was a disaster was a decline of 410,000 in the number of social housing units during the 13 years of the Labour Government. Since then, the number has risen by more than 60,000. If the right hon. Gentleman does not agree with me, perhaps he will agree with his former colleague, now the Mayor of London, who said of the money allocated to affordable housing in last week’s autumn statement:

“This is the largest sum of money ever secured by City Hall for affordable housing.”

The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) must know something about these matters. He is an estate agent. Let us hear from him.

I tend to spend more time here these days, Mr Speaker.

Does the Secretary of State agree that if we are to create more opportunities for small and medium-sized house builders, we need to allocate more small sites in local plans?

Yes, I do agree with my hon. Friend. He will be pleased to know that the new accelerated construction fund will ensure that allocations of that kind are more forthcoming, and that the £3 billion home building fund will provide more support for small and medium-sized builders.