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New Homes

Volume 669: debated on Monday 13 January 2020

We have delivered more than 1.5 million new homes since 2010 and last year saw the highest level of delivery in over 30 years, but there is more to do. Later this year I will publish a White Paper on planning reform, an objective of which will be a simpler and faster system for the benefit of everyone, including homeowners, and small and medium-sized builders.

Conservative-led Rugby Borough Council has ambitious plans for social housing in Rugby, replacing unpopular old tower blocks with new, traditional housing. How can the Minister help the council to get on with this as quickly as possible? In particular, what discussions has he had with Treasury colleagues about the interest rate available from the Public Works Loan Board for projects such as this, which provide a very clear social benefit?

We want to build more homes of all types. We have delivered 464,000 new affordable homes since 2010, and we have abolished the housing revenue account cap and established a five-year rent deal. Councils can secure grant funding from the existing affordable homes programme, and I am pleased to say that Rugby Borough Council is benefiting from that. In our manifesto, we said that we would create a successor to the affordable homes programme that is at least as generous. Finance from the Public Works Loan Board plays an important role in these investments. In October the Treasury made an extra £10 billion of lending available, and the interest rate remains very favourable, returning only to 2018 levels.

The housing White Paper provided that developers should start to build within two years of securing planning permission. Will the Minister update the House on what progress has been made to ensure that developers build the homes we need and do not sit on land?

I welcome my hon. Friend to the House. We want to see new homes built as soon as possible once planning permission is granted. She is right to refer to the previous housing White Paper, and this matter will be an important element of the forthcoming planning White Paper. Developers and authorities should be working closely together locally to deliver this, and I will look at whatever is necessary, including amending legislation, to ensure that we build the homes this country needs, and that we do so quickly.

The climate emergency is real and we need to tackle it. Building new homes to a net zero standard must be at the heart of the solution. What action are this new Government going to take?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. We have committed to the future homes standard, which means that no new home will be built in this country from 2025 unless it has the highest levels of energy efficiency, and low or zero-carbon heating. We are consulting on that and further proposals will be brought forward shortly, meaning that planning applications will be made very shortly for those homes to be delivered post 2025. This will be a major change in the delivery of homes across the country, and a very welcome one.

Thousands of new homes are due to be built at Maghull in my constituency. The developers are reluctant to build an access road, which means that construction traffic will now have to use totally unsuitable residential and rural roads. The experience in Maghull is all too typical. Does this not just show the problems with the planning system that favour developers over existing communities?

I am happy to look into the instance that the hon. Gentleman raises. These matters are usually dealt with by councils in the planning conditions that they choose to set. The role in this for central Government is ensuring that infrastructure flows first—that was one of our manifesto commitments—so that GP surgeries, roads and schools flow at an appropriate time. We are going to take that forward. In the previous Parliament we created the housing infrastructure fund, which was a huge success and has delivered billions of pounds of infrastructure. We have committed to create a new version of that, which the Chancellor and I will be announcing shortly and will be larger and longer-term than its predecessor.

It is a pleasure to see you in your Chair, Mr Speaker.

I thank the Secretary of State for recently visiting Telford. It was very much appreciated that he came to a new-build development where we have been having some difficult issues. As a new town, Telford experiences a very rapid rate of house building that can be overwhelming for communities and for local services. What steps is his Department taking to ensure good practice by developers and adequate local services for residents?

It was a pleasure to visit Telford—a town that, as my hon. Friend knows, I know well. Telford is one of the fastest-growing towns in the country. While there are many examples of good-quality development —she took me to Lightmoor Village, being built with the Bournville Village Trust—there have been examples, on which she has fought for her constituents, of poor-quality development. Developers need to build high-quality, well-designed and safe homes, and we will take the steps necessary to ensure that they do. One step we are taking forward is the creation of a new homes ombudsman, which has been led in recent months by—now—my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mrs Elphicke). We will put that on a statutory footing in due course.