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Agricultural Land: Development

Volume 681: debated on Monday 5 October 2020

What steps he is taking to ensure that high-quality agricultural land is not used for housing developments. (907021)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already alluded, in his answer to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for South West Hertfordshire (Mr Mohindra), to the £400 million brownfield fund, delivering 26,000 homes, and our commitment to prioritising brownfield sites does not end there. Our national planning policy framework is clear that brownfield should be prioritised for redevelopment for housing, and that local authorities should avoid using our best and most versatile farmland wherever and whenever possible.

My right hon. Friend knows that I have a high regard for him personally, but I am afraid that that does not extend to a planning White Paper that seems designed to smother the south-east of England and the garden of England in houses not for local people but for people from elsewhere. In responding to my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (James Daly), the Secretary of State said that the brownfield fund would be made available to metropolitan areas. Will that be extended across the board to rural areas as well? Also, could my right hon. Friend give us an assurance that all of the 1 million consents already granted will be used before a single further blade of greenfield site in agricultural land is also used?

I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for his question. I can confirm that, though he is correct that the £400 million made available for the brownfield regeneration fund was targeted at mayoral combined authorities, the home building fund has in it £5 billion to support new housing, including brownfield projects. More than 300 projects in England will receive a share of the £900 million to get Britain building: the getting building fund. That will also, I trust, support his constituency. I also remind him that just a couple of days ago we voted for permitted development rights, which will allow for the reimagining of town centres, and the demolition and rebuild of disused commercial buildings. That will also take the weight off any pressure on green spaces, so the Government are committed to the end that my right hon. Friend wants: building brownfield first.