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Housebuilding: Urban Densification

Volume 717: debated on Monday 27 June 2022

1. What steps his Department is taking to increase housebuilding through densification of urban areas using local authority-approved building codes that pre-approve buildings. (900712)

We want to build good-quality homes in the right places, and to give communities a greater say in the planning process. The Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill includes provision for new “street vote” powers which will allow residents to come together and bring forward the development that they want to see on their streets, in line with their design preferences. That will incentivise communities to consider the potential for development, especially in areas of high demand, and will support a gentle increase in density through well-considered, well-designed and locally supported proposals.

I thank the Minister for that reply, and agree with him that the “street votes” idea—which the Secretary of State described as “a cracking idea” a few months ago from that very Dispatch Box—is extremely welcome and at the core of the Bill. Will he consider applying the same principles of local consent and design codes on a slightly larger scale to increase supply and create wealth across whole neighbourhoods rather than just single streets, as outlined in chapter 4 of my recent paper “Poverty Trapped”?

My hon. Friend never misses an opportunity to promote his paper, and I commend him for it. Of course we want to ensure that every community has an opportunity to build the houses that it needs within the local plan that it is developing. I welcome many of the points that my hon. Friend raised in his paper, and look forward to working with him in future to see how we can develop them further.

Does the Minister agree that high density does not equate to high rise? In the light of tragedies such as Grenfell Tower, Ronan Point and others, will he look less than kindly on applications for high-rise developments?

The hon. Gentleman will understand that I am not able, in a quasi-judicial role, to comment on individual planning applications. It is for local authorities to make those decisions. Density can come in a range of different ways, and it is for local communities to decide what housing they want built in their area.