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Jonathan Shaw: Does the hon. Gentleman recall one important point that the Minister made? The vast majority of the new homes will be built for the indigenous population: the sons, the daughters, the grandmas and grandfathers of the indigenous people living in those communities already.

Bob Spink: If only that were so; it simply is not so. There is an assumption that there will be a major influx of population into the south-east, at a time when the north is starting to regenerate and great cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle are striving forward. Why should we seek to take their people away from them?

Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con): Will my hon. Friend recommend the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report to the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Jonathan Shaw)? That makes it clear that the principal pressure on housing demand
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does not come from within communities but from all kinds of other factors such as migration from the north of England and other demand-side factors.

Bob Spink: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that clarification.

I move from housing to a headline that I doubt anyone here will have seen. It says "Not a single penny", and refers to the £23 million regeneration handout from the Thames gateway project in south Essex this week. Many people benefited from that; we have already heard that my hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois) got some work done on his local windmill. Basildon benefited and Southend benefited. There are many projects that benefited. I am sure that Thurrock benefited, because the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) is so assiduous that he would have made sure of that. Sadly, Castle Point did not get a penny of that money.

Indeed, Mary Spence, the chief executive, is quoted in the same local paper—the Evening Echo of 10 November—as saying:

I think that I have already mentioned one or two.

I find the offer of the money a little offensive—analogous to someone throwing coloured beads at the natives while stealing their land, in the hope of making them compliant. We are given £23 million for a bit of a windmill improvement here and a little project there, and we are all supposed to say, "Thank you so much," tug our forelocks and go home happy that the Thames gateway is fantastic, and doing good things locally. That is what the £23 million is intended for.

Yet at the same time people are trying to force 123,000 houses on south Essex—on the south-east—which is totally unsustainable. Some of those houses will have to go on the green belt.

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mr. Tony McNulty) rose—

Bob Spink: As the Minister wants to intervene, will he confirm that to get 4,000 extra houses in Castle Point, some green belt will have to be released?

Mr. McNulty: I intervene only to point out that the hon. Gentleman cannot say that the figure will be 125,000 for south Essex and then in the next breath say that it will be the south-east. Which is it? Is he suggesting that there will be 125,000 houses for south Essex or for the south-east? We have to be careful about these figures. In fact, as I understand it, the figure for Castle Point is 2,500, not 4,000.

Bob Spink: I accept the Minister's correction. I meant to say the south-east, not south Essex, so I apologise to the House for that. I tried to correct myself immediately, as the record will show, but the Minister made two errors. First, he said 125,000, whereas I said 123,000; and secondly, he said that there would not be 4,000 additional houses for Castle Point. If not, will he confirm that the lower figure will be the one imposed on
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Castle Point, because we would love that? I am sorry to have to say that my understanding is that it will be the higher figure—4,000—for Castle Point.

On housing, the gateway is a Trojan horse. It brings a massive increase in building but offers no improvement in infrastructure. Canvey Island really needs new access, but there will be none. The East of England Development Agency will be spending a few million pounds on developing new industrial sites in a new industrial park on Canvey Island, yet there are empty sites all over the island. If only that money were spent on a road, we would not have to spend any more money on developing industrial sites on Canvey Island. The private sector would take over and do it for us; the development would be organic, driven by people. What we need on Canvey Island is an additional access road—nothing less. We need no further development at all until we have that infrastructure.

Our roads are already overburdened with congestion, yet there are plans to build in the green belt, which would feed on to the A13 in Hadleigh and Thundersley, yet there is no means of improving the road in those areas. It goes through a densely built-up area, so there is no solution for the already wholly unacceptable congestion, yet only two weeks ago a proposal was made to build 310 more houses in that green belt. My constituents are full up with housing and fed up with congestion. In fact, one of them, Eric Fenwick, rang me this morning to say, "Dr. Spink, when you're writing your election address, use the slogan, 'Full up and fed up' because that describes how the residents of Castle Point feel."

Our public services are tremendously overstretched. Our schools are full. Our hospitals still have massive waiting lists. Our doctors' surgeries are full. People cannot book into a dentist locally. We do not have sufficient leisure and sporting facilities locally. Our kids have nothing to do, so they hang about on the streets, sometimes—not always—making a nuisance of themselves, although I stress that Castle Point kids are basically fantastic and deserve more facilities from us. We should not be dragging in more kids, without such facilities. I hope the Government are taking note and that the Minister will receive a note from his officials about the 4,000 houses in Castle Point and give us the very good news that he has decided to reduce that number. Does he accept that a major new development of hundreds of houses feeding on to already congested roads is nonsense, and will he pull that development, because of the highways issues, pending improvements to the infrastructure?

The Thames estuary has internationally important wildlife sites, not least in and around Castle Point, which include a vast area of the Thames, going past Southend, West as far as Rochford and Southend, East. I do not get many votes in the wildlife areas of my constituency, but they are important and I treasure them and want to protect them. Such sites are especially important for birds and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has carefully and wisely lobbied for their protection.

We need to enhance our existing nature reserves, but we also need to ensure that the, sometimes conflicting, leisure uses of the Thames are also enhanced, developed and protected. People and their leisure activities are just
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as important as wildlife. We have to balance those two conflicting aims and I hope that the Minister will be able to do so.

We need to ensure that the new flood storage does not damage wildlife sites. The overreaction of the Minister for Housing and Planning whenever the flood plain was mentioned frightened me to death. What is in his mind? What caused him to overreact in that, shall I say, bewildering manner? Perhaps we will find out.

We need to minimise the production of waste in the area and to find better and more sustainable ways of dealing with it. Waste management is a major issue, especially at the Pitsea tip, and questions about incineration in Essex keep raising their heads.

If we get the infrastructure issues right, the Thames gateway could be of great benefit for the people of the south-east and, indeed, south Essex.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con): I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware that the Environment Agency is about to publish flood plain maps which will give a much more accurate idea of the precise boundaries of flooding, according to certain risks. The Minister referred to one in 1,000, but it is no good if that one in a 1,000 years happens to be when one's house is being built—but that is another matter. Could it be that the Minister is sensitive about those maps because he will have much greater difficulty finding spaces for those houses than he originally thought?

Bob Spink: I think my hon. Friend may be on to something. The one in 1,000 design standard may have been consistent with conditions 10 or 20 years ago, but recently we have seen massive climate change and all the models have been rapidly adjusted. I am pretty sure that the one in 1,000 standard no longer applies for the Thames estuary. The Government were wrong to abolish the Essex flood defence committee and I am grateful to my colleagues on the Opposition Front Bench for confirming that they will reinstate the committee when we win the next election. I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) reminded me about making those points.

I do not want to be a dismal Jimmy, however. I do not want to suggest that the Thames gateway is all bad—it is not. It offers much promise, but to secure that promise we need to get the infrastructure in and reduce the number of houses being forced on us by the Government, which will destroy our green belt.

8.8 pm

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