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Planning Applications: Economic Opportunities and Housing Need

Volume 662: debated on Monday 17 June 2019

6. What steps he is taking to ensure that planning applications (a) maximise economic opportunities and (b) tackle local housing needs. (911357)

The Secretary of State has issued a national planning policy framework that provides details on how economic opportunities should be included in applications that look to tackle local housing need.

When a proposed economic development does not provide for sufficient good-quality jobs for our city, when proposed housing fails to address current and future need and when proposed car use only adds to an already gridlocked city, how will the Minister review planning so that ordinary residents have a real voice and so that councils and developers have to act on independent evidence to address local need, not their own interests?

I believe the hon. Lady is referring to the planning application for the centre of York, on which she and I have met, and on which I have also met my hon. Friend the Member for York Outer (Julian Sturdy).

The hon. Member for York Central (Rachael Maskell) is aware that the Secretary of State is currently considering this application, so it would not be right for me to comment. It is also right for me to say that I have formally recused myself from making a decision on the application because of my meetings with her and others.

Planning applications that could deliver hundreds of new homes in Fareham are in limbo following advice from Natural England, which has instructed that planning permission should be refused unless developments are nitrate-neutral, after two rulings from the European Court of Justice. Will the Government work with me to look at suspending house building targets while affected councils work to find a solution to avoid being unfairly treated at potential appeals?

We will happily work with my hon. Friend as she sets out. I believe that the housing Minister is already looking into this issue, and I am sure he will be in touch with her in due course.

On Friday, I met a constituent who had been moved to temporary accommodation in Ilford, 17 miles from where her children attend school and where she works. The Government continue to place an unacceptable burden on councils, making them responsible for the lack of social housing while cutting their funding and refusing to increase their ability to build. Can the Secretary of State confirm that since 2010 the rise in homelessness has been caused by the cutting of council “Supporting People” budgets, the loss of more than 170,000 affordable council homes and a failure to stop soaring private rents?

I do not accept there is the causal link to which the hon. Lady refers. Local authorities have an obligation, which they should discharge, to house homeless individuals and to provide good-quality accommodation. If she believes her local authority is failing to do that. perhaps she could provide details and we could look into that further.

As my right hon. Friend is aware, the Department sits in a quasi-judicial position in relation to all planning applications. It would therefore be inappropriate for me to comment on the individual application to which he refers.

Yes, but there is nothing to stop the right hon. Gentleman depositing a copy of his written request in the Library of the House, for its collective delectation.

Does the Minister acknowledge that one unintended consequence of extending permitted development rights to commercial and industrial property is that a significant amount of housing is now being generated that is below accepted space and safety standards? What action is he taking to correct that?

I do not accept that, but I will say that we are looking at PDRs more generally. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman would, like me, celebrate the fact that this one policy alone has provided in excess of 40,000 houses for people to move into. We universally acknowledge, across this House, that we have a housing crisis and we need to build more homes, so I would have thought he welcomed that.

Many thousands of new homes are planned in Chelmsford, but pressure on our infrastructure holds back economic growth, and we especially need the second railway station for the city. Will my hon. Friend update us on the status of our housing infrastructure bid?

My hon. Friend is a fantastic advocate for her constituents and really gets it: she understands that if we want to build the houses we need in this country, it is up to all of us, across this House, to get behind and support development. I know that she is in strong support of her housing infrastructure bid. The Department continues to review it and will give her the result of that review shortly.