Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 380-383)



Sir Paul Beresford

  380. You mentioned the south-east and pressure. Many of the local authorities in the south-east and London think they need more affordable housing. Would you agree with that? If you do agree with that, how should it be done—on site, by the developers or by the betterment tax or tariff, whatever you like to call it?
  (Mr Whitaker) We have always argued that there is a need, and we support the government in the need, to build balanced communities. Clearly we want to see those communities include people from the entire spectrum of the housing ladder, as it is frequently referred to. What we tend to see now are extremes where we build full-cost market houses and then we are expected to provide social rented houses for those people in most need, as identified in local housing needs surveys. Clearly a housing local authority is bound to seek housing for those in highest need. But what we end up with are developments with social rented housing and private market housing. The gap in the middle is often being avoided by local authorities, and indeed by the development industry. What we need is a much more rounded solution to provide housing that meets that middle gap, and we are starting to move towards that with key worker housing, and I think that needs to be widened out much further. Government guidance talks about low-cost market housing, yet a number of local authorities disregard that guidance and do not include low cost market housing as meeting their affordable housing needs. I would like to look at affordable housing in a much more rounded way.

  381. That is a nice rounded answer. Actually, I specifically mentioned the south-east and London.
  (Mr Whitaker) I think the south-east and London are those areas that are starting to see this problem exacerbated. We believe that is due to excessive demand over very limited supply. In answer to the question earlier, the local authorities which are most opposed to development tend to be those in the south-east, not London—London is very positive about development—and they tend to be the shire areas. That is why we are starting to see the polarisation between affordability and supply.

  382. Earlier you said that you feel that the national government could have an influence on demand and yet you have made it quite clear that certainly for a brownfield side they have that influence. The Council for Mortgage Lenders at one of their briefings relatively recently said that in fact there had been a shift towards the north-east and that after 1997 it came back this way. Should not the government have used the planning system and other measures to shift the demand?
  (Mr Whitaker) I think what you are starting to see is much better regional policy and areas like the north-east are saying, "We want to see inward investment to the north-east", and that is to be welcomed. What they also recognise is that, in order to support that economic development in the north-east, they need to encourage the very people who power that economic development, and therefore schemes like Great Park in Newcastle are providing homes that are not provided elsewhere in the north-east. The north-east has lots and lots of terraced homes with no gardens and therefore the people who want to power the economic regeneration of those areas want to live in detached houses with gardens. By linking those two developments in the north-east, you get urban regeneration, but you also provide the very type of family unit or unit to which people will want to move.

  383. So you can force demand?
  (Mr Whitaker) I do not think it is influencing demand. I think that urban regeneration is being supported by business and that business continues to require mixed and balanced communities. That is what we must not lose sight of.

  Chairman: On that note, can I thank you very much for your evidence


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