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House of Commons Hansard
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04 March 2019
Volume 655
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9. What steps his Department is taking to support building on brownfield sites. [909530]

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Our national planning policies are clear about the importance of making full and efficient use of brownfield land, supported by the requirement for every authority to publish and maintain a register of brownfield land suitable for housing. The £4.5 billion home building fund also provides support for new housing, much of it targeted on brownfield land.

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I am grateful to the Minister for that answer and for visiting the old power station site in Poole, one of the largest regeneration sites in the south-west. What more can he do to help to unlock brownfield sites such as that, which will provide the homes that we need and protect our green belt?

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It was a great pleasure to spend some time with the hon. Gentleman and his esteemed neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Sir Robert Syms), at the power station site in Poole. I would recommend it as a place to visit, not least to see the remarkable harbour bridge, which is a feat of British engineering worth visiting in itself. There is much that we can do in terms of applying funding, but the application of Homes England is critical to getting brownfield sites over the line. Homes England is becoming much more entrepreneurial and assertive in its use of the funds and the capacity we have given it to make these sites work. As we speak, it is releasing thousands of homes throughout the country.

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The City of York Council administration has an abysmal house building record, and we have seen a net loss of social housing. We also have the largest brownfield site in the country, ready to be developed. In order to expedite matters, will the Minister say when he plans to announce the Government’s response to the right-to-buy receipts review, so that we can get house building moving?

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I have not been a Minister for long, but I have learned to use a word well honed in government, which is “shortly”. We will respond shortly but, more than that, it would give me enormous pleasure to visit York at some point over the next few months and view what I know is a large site with great potential that Homes England has already talked about in excited terms. Having had a fantastic weekend with my family in York just last year, it would be a great pleasure to repeat the experience.

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Those outside the Chamber observing our proceedings could usefully know that in government the word “shortly” sometimes contains elasticity.

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24. Brownfield sites can bring forward supply, which is good for everybody, but what can the Minister do in particular for students to make the supply of their accommodation more easily available and fairer for renters? [909546]

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That is a remarkably crafty attempt by my hon. Friend to shoehorn in a question about student housing. He is absolutely right that brownfield land offers enormous potential for all sorts of housing throughout the country. In fact, you might be interested to know, Mr Speaker, that in 2016-17 some 56% of all new homes were delivered on brownfield sites, and that will have included student accommodation. In truth, the secret to student accommodation is the same as that for all sorts of other accommodation: supply. The more there is, the cheaper it will be and the more providers will compete on quality.

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Well, I am somewhat better informed, and I thank the Minister for that.

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EU funds have been used to decontaminate brownfield land, making it suitable for development. A prime example of that is at Shawfield in the Clyde Gateway area. The Clyde Gateway has received £6 million of EU funds for decontamination work in the Shawfield area in South Lanarkshire, which borders on Glasgow. Recently, hexavalent chromium contamination from the former J&J White chemical works has seeped into the Polmadie burn, and it will cost tens of millions of pounds to clear up. It would be good to hear from the Minister exactly whether the shared prosperity fund will include any mechanism to cover brownfield land. Otherwise, it will go unremediated in future.

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There will be no intention to leave any sod of brownfield land unturned throughout the country in our quest for space to build the homes that the next generation needs. The hon. Lady makes a serious point and she is right that in the spending review and the consideration of arrangements as we leave the EU, we need to look to reproduce the capacity to deal with all that contaminated land, which is perhaps a relic of our industrial past but now holds enormous potential for the future.