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Mr. Raynsford: The right hon. Gentleman is wrong in assuming that migration from the north is the major factor in population and housing growth in the south-west or the south-east. It is not, and if he studies the figures he will realise that.

Mr. King: It is the major factor.

Mr. Raynsford: No, it is not. I am sorry, but he is wrong.

Mr. Blunt rose--

Mr. Raynsford: However, there are pressures to deal with household growth, much of which is generated by the need to accommodate new indigenous households.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I apologise for interrupting the Minister, but the hon. Member for Reigate

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(Mr. Blunt) cannot stay on his feet while the Minister is speaking if the Minister has not given way, which he has not.

Mr. Raynsford: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am trying to respond to the right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King), and the hon. Member for Reigate should wait at least until I have answered that intervention. The hon. Gentleman has intervened twice, so he has already had more than his fair share of interventions.

The point that I was making to the right hon. Member for Bridgwater was that difficult issues must be addressed. The undesirable consequences of inadequate provision are rising house prices, homelessness and overcrowding. We must make provision, but it must be sustainable if we are to ensure that we do not bequeath communities that cannot continue to exist without putting unreasonable pressures on the countryside. That is our objective and our policy.

Several hon. Members rose--

Mr. Raynsford: It is important that I now focus on the proposals on which we have been working to ensure that any future development in England is sustainable and appropriate. Our agenda goes far wider than just planning policy, although that is a major plank of the overall strategy. Our approach includes the urban and rural White Papers, which we intend to publish next year, the regional planning agenda, which is already in place, the work of the regional development agencies to help to solve regional economic imbalances, and many other cross-government initiatives.

In addition, we are trying, through the social exclusion agenda, to balance out the differences between regions, towns and cities as regards the lot of different members of the community. We are trying to iron out the differences between the haves and have-nots, which was so chronically exacerbated during the time of the previous Government.

We also believe that we have a responsibility to people in need of affordable housing. Unlike some local authorities--and the right hon. Member for Wokingham, who did not mention the need for affordable housing--we believe that we should ensure that everyone has the opportunity of a decent home. We do not believe, like some people, that their needs can be ignored. The sons and daughters of existing residents need housing, and we should plan to include them.

Mr. Ian Bruce rose--

Mr. Raynsford: Our approach was set out in our White Paper "Planning for the Communities of the Future" and in the draft planning policy guidance note on housing, PPG3. The whole approach has been widely endorsed by the all-party Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs, the urban task force and by far the majority of the respondents to the PPG3 consultation.

The Government believe that everyone should have the opportunity of a decent home. That will mean looking ahead for up to 20 years to assess housing needs,

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tempered by constraints on capacity, to arrive at a responsible and realistic view of the future housing requirements of a region.

Mr. Paterson: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Raynsford: I shall not give way.

We should plan to meet the requirements of the whole community, including those in need of affordable housing. We should provide greater choice and a better mix in the size, type and location of housing. We should provide sufficient homes, but give priority to the re-use of previously developed land, bringing empty homes into use and promoting the conversion of existing buildings within urban areas, in preference to greenfield sites. As I have already stressed, we are committed to our national target of 60 per cent. of new homes on previously developed land or through conversions.

Mr. Paterson: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Raynsford: I shall not give way. I have made it perfectly clear that I have taken enough interventions, and it is time to move on, as other hon. Members want to contribute to the debate.

We will look very critically at the panel report on the south-east, which proposes a 50 per cent. target for brownfield development. We should create more sustainable patterns of development by building in ways that will deliver accessibility by public transport to jobs, education and health facilities, shopping, leisure and local services.

We propose a systematic approach to assessing the potential of land for housing. We should release land reserved for employment or other uses that might better be used for housing. We should review planning policies and standards that affect the capacity to accommodate development, especially those relating to the layout, density and car parking requirements in new developments. We should promote good design in new housing developments to create attractive, high-quality living environments where people will choose to live. This is a one-nation approach which aims to plan ahead; faces up to the scale of the challenge and the difficult decisions that confront us; does not shirk responsibility; and recognises the importance of reconciling different and sometimes conflicting priorities.

As the House knows, we are strongly committed to maximising the re-use of previously developed land and buildings, particularly in urban areas.

Mr. Ian Bruce: Will the Minister give way on that point?

Mr. Raynsford: I will give way for the last time.

Mr. Bruce: The Minister knows that one of the changes that the Government made when they came to power was to move more planning, or regeneration, decisions to the rural development authority. Will he consider what has happened to the fourth of the four sets of sites on Portland? The first three have all been redeveloped for housing and business purposes, because they were sold to the private sector; the fourth is in the hands of the rural development authority, and has been

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for two years. The authority refuses to return calls from people who want to create jobs in my constituency. The policy is not working, and I should be grateful if the Minister would look into the matter. A massive brownfield site is available, and we want to start developing it.

Mr. Raynsford: If the hon. Gentleman will write to me, I shall undertake to look into the issue that he has raised. I am happy to ensure that he receives a detailed response.

We are insisting on regional and local targets. We launched the national land use database; until we commissioned it, there was no available evidence of what previously developed land was likely to become available. That was a crucial step towards ensuring that we had the information that was necessary if we were to achieve our brownfield site targets. The right hon. Member for Wokingham and his colleagues simply had not thought it worth checking their data. We are now setting up rigorous capacity studies, and proposing annual monitoring.

The Tories had 18 years in which to face up to the challenge, and they failed. No sooner had they been converted from being laissez-faire free marketeers hellbent on dismantling the planning system to being aware of the need to plan ahead than they renounced that awareness and became "NIMBYs" without responsibility.

We know what is realistic and do-able. We know what we have achieved from our annual land use change statistics. For the first time, we have information on what previously developed land is available, has planning permission and is scheduled for development in local plans, and what could become available for development in the next five years. The urban task force chaired by Lord Rogers has suggested that the 60 per cent. target will be challenging in the longer term--

Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes): Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Raynsford: I will, because I know that the hon. Gentleman has taken a long-term interest in the subject; but this is the last intervention that I will take.

Mr. Steen: I am grateful to the Minister. He has been very charitable, but I am sure that he will be helped by my question.

I do not know how exactly how many, but an enormous number--millions and millions--of houses were to be built, but the Deputy Prime Minister has reduced that figure of 400 million, or whatever it was, to 3.8 million. Will that feed into the regional plans and the district plans? Will we benefit from the reduction that the Deputy Prime Minister wishes to incorporate in the national figure? If the reduction does take place, when will it take place?

Mr. Raynsford: I shall be charitable to the hon. Gentleman, as he is clearly having difficulty with his figures. I assure him--and he will know from the frequent debates in which we have engaged in the Chamber--that we are introducing the new arrangements that he himself agrees are an improvement on the previous arrangement.

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I do not claim that he agrees with everything that we are doing, but he has told me that he feels that draft planning policy guidance note 3 goes very much in the right direction. As I said in response to two earlier interventions, we are committed to the incremental implementation of the new arrangements to ensure that we achieve the objectives that I have spelt out.

In PPG3, we propose to promote the national target of 60 per cent. of development on brownfield sites by ensuring that regional planning bodies adopt challenging regional targets, based on a full assessment of achievement to date, regional capacity studies and proposed local targets based on local plans and the national land use database. We also propose that local planning authorities should review the capacity of their areas, having assessed the impact of changing policies on density, parking and layout.

We are promoting greater choice in the mix of size, type and location of housing, offering more choice for small households, for whom the house builder's standard product--a four-bedroom house on a greenfield site at low density--is not the preferred option. We are creating attractive alternatives, making urban living a real choice, rather than a compromise for those who have choice. Above all, we are firmly weighting the selection criteria for assessing the development potential of possible housing sites in favour of the re-use of previously developed land in the right locations.

I assure the House that we are committed to maximising the re-use of land and buildings, the so-called brownfield option, and to making better use of existing land and buildings to minimise the need to use greenfield sites. That will mean reassessing density standards, particularly in the south-east, which has the lowest densities for new housing developments in the whole country.

We are choosing the most sustainable greenfield options through the systematic assessment of sites to be allocated for housing in development plans. That will mean revisiting existing allocations to review their suitability and capacity. We are getting a better mix of types, sizes and locations for the additional housing, so as to offer greater choice.

Unlike the Opposition, we are prepared to face up to our responsibilities to the present and next generation who need housing.We have a realistic strategy to meet the challenge. Labour is the party of one-nation politics, the Conservatives of short-term opportunism and long-term amnesia.

The Conservatives' record in government was lamentable. Their cover-up is unconvincing. Their rhetoric is hollow. Their policies are threadbare. Their motion deserves to be overwhelmingly rejected.


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