New homes should be built out as soon as possible once planning permission is granted, and under this Government net additional dwellings are at their highest since 2007-08. We are building on progress made so far by revising the national planning policy framework and diversifying the market to increase the pace of development, and I have commissioned my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) to lead a review of build-out rates.
One of the councils in my area has been without a local plan since 2005 and is currently consulting on a draft plan that over-inflates housing need and unnecessarily builds on the green belt. Does my hon. Friend agree that one way to speed up house building is to put in place local plans that have the confidence of local people?
My hon. Friend fights hard for his constituents’ interests, as he does at all times. He is right to say that a local plan is vital not only to progress housing in an area but to protect residents from the predations of speculative developers. I find it astonishing that authorities can be so dilatory in producing such plans.
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is essential that we build the homes that the country needs, and that we build the right homes in the right places, which means protecting the green belt and investing in the infrastructure that we need to accommodate those homes?
With her usual perspicacity, my hon. Friend has put her finger on the button and enunciated the cocktails required for successful development, with the omission of one, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames) mentioned —namely, design. If we can put all those things together, we will create the houses that people need.
The building of new homes is being choked off in Nottingham by the refusal of the Department to remove the cap on the housing revenue account. I put this to Ministers on 12 March, and was told that if Nottingham stepped up and made a strong case, it would be looked upon favourably. Such a case has been made, but it has not been looked upon favourably. Why not?
As a person who is new in post, I am happy to look at the specifics of that matter, but we have obviously given an extra £1 billion of funding to local authorities to bid into, and we are inviting bids at the moment for housing revenue account expansion. I would also point out that, across the whole piece, local authorities already have about £3.6 billion of headroom, and I am at a loss to understand why they are not using it.
The people who come into my surgery are looking for social rented housing, and we need to speed up the building of those homes. This Government inherited a £4 billion social housing building programme, but the Chartered Institute of Housing says that that has now gone down to less than £500 million, which represents a cut of nearly 90%. How does the Minister intend to increase the supply of social housing that people in my constituency so desperately need?
We are committed to a vibrant housing market with tenures of all types, and for all types of people. In particular, we have emphasised that housing for social rent should be an area of growth. As was stated in an earlier answer, we are targeting a further 12,500 social rent housing for provision in the next few years, but if the hon. Gentleman has any ideas about where, when and who I need to push, prod or harass in order to build more, I will be more than happy to do that.