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Housing Development (Infrastructure Requirements)

12.32 pm

Mr. Mark Hoban (Fareham) (Con): I beg to move,

The general practitioner's surgery in Whiteley in my constituency is still housed in a portakabin. The primary school serving that community is too small, so five and six-year-olds turned away from it are bussed to another school on the other side of a busy motorway junction. There is only one road in and out of Whiteley.

Residents living in the 3,000 homes in Whiteley see for themselves what happens when large-scale housing development takes place without adequate infrastructure. Thankfully, a new GP's surgery and a one-form-entry primary school will be built shortly, but more needs to be done to tackle the community's traffic problems.

The quality of life for Whiteley residents would be much better if the infrastructure issues had been tackled up front, rather than on a piecemeal basis. After what has happened in Whiteley, it is clear to me that we cannot embark on large-scale building without looking again at how infrastructure development is provided.

In addition, we need to address the concerns of residents, who are anxious that existing services cannot cope with the demands and pressures that come from large-scale house building. When faced with development, it is a natural reaction for people to look at the congestion on their roads, at the queues at their GPs' surgeries and at the problems of getting their children into local schools, and to challenge those plans. They also start to question the willingness of the Government to pay their share of the bill for tackling some of those issues.

In south Hampshire, one of the challenges that we face relates to the transport infrastructure. The main route that links Portsmouth and Southampton—the M27—is struggling with increased demand. The A32 between Fareham and Gosport is already heavily congested. Hampshire county council and Portsmouth city council worked together to design a light rapid transit system to link Fareham, Gosport and Portsmouth, to tackle the growing traffic problems that arise from existing and planned development. Two weeks ago, the Government rejected those plans as being too expensive, but they did not say that fewer houses should be built or that development plans should be put on hold until an alternative transport solution is agreed.

The rejection of the rapid transit system is illustrative—as, indeed, is the delay in getting an extra primary school for Whiteley—of the problems of failing to tackle the infrastructure needs of development at the outset, rather than waiting until a problem emerges to tackle. If the resolution of the issues is delayed, developers' contributions run out, even if they were ever adequate to tackle the infrastructure needs, and other priorities for expenditure become more pressing.
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We need to learn from those experiences, when looking at the plans that are being put together at the moment by regional assemblies, and to take a fresh look at infrastructure provision and its funding. If we are to meet the needs of new residents and address the concerns of local people, we need to tackle infrastructure in a new way. We cannot simply allow decisions about infrastructure to be taken once houses are built.

We can forecast what issues will arise from large-scale housing development, and we should plan how to tackle them now, rather than simply waiting for them to happen and trying to find a solution then. By infrastructure, I do not simply mean the estate roads around new developments and shops, but the major infrastructure investment that is needed to fund large-scale development in areas such as south Hampshire, where the plan is to build 80,000 houses over 20 years, 20,000 of which will be in two strategic development areas, one of which is in my constituency.

If we are to proceed with development on that scale in Hampshire and on a greater scale in the Thames Gateway, Buckinghamshire, Bedford, Essex, Kent, Hertfordshire, Milton Keynes, Northamptonshire and elsewhere, there must be a serious commitment to infrastructure investment.

My Bill proposes three steps to tackle the infrastructure problems. The Government and the local authority should work together to identify the infrastructure needs related to large-scale housing development. Those needs should be costed. Agreement should be reached about who foots the bill before development can start. Those steps need to be completed, not when it is too late—not when schools are overcrowded, roads are clogged up and water and drainage systems are overloaded—but before work starts, so that local authorities know what support is there and local people understand what the solutions to those issues will be, so that everyone involved in the development knows what their share of the bill is.

The partnership for urban south Hampshire has already started to assess the infrastructure needs and costs associated with the 80,000 new homes that are planned for the area and recognises, too, the need for measures to tackle the existing infrastructure deficit. It has estimated that the cost of tackling the existing infrastructure problems and meeting future needs that relate to transport alone is £1.6 billion, before taking into account the other needs of those new developments. It estimates that new primary schools will cost about £80 million and that secondary schools will cost a similar amount.

We will need one GP per 1,800 to 2,500 people. The capital cost associated with a new surgery is about £500,000 per GP. We will need new primary care facilities, enhanced water supplies, new or extended sewage treatment services and community centres. The list is long and is not exclusive to south Hampshire—other areas will need the same facilities—but the crucial issue, once the level of need is identified, is who should pay for it?

The partnership for urban south Hampshire estimates that each house in the strategic development area will generate developers' contributions of £10,000. So an SDA of the size planned for Fareham will produce
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£100 million. That sounds a lot, but let us remember that a secondary school can cost about £20 million, so it will not take too long for those contributions to become exhausted. So the cost of infrastructure must be met from elsewhere—whether from council tax payers in the area or from taxpayers.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has recognised the cost of infrastructure and has set up the community infrastructure fund, but there is only £200 million in that pot—not enough for south Hampshire, let alone areas elsewhere in the country. The position is complicated by the allocation of resources across government. Will the Department for Transport be prepared to pay its share of the bill for road, rail and public transport improvements? Our experience of the rapid transit system is that while one arm of the Government—the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister—is urging us to build more houses, another arm is not prepared to meet the cost of tackling the traffic congestion that housing development has created.

If the Government want new houses built, priorities need to be realigned across existing Departments, so that funds are available in the Department for Education and Skills, the Department of Health and the Department for Transport to meet the cost of infrastructure provision. This is not a plea for more money to be spent, but an argument that existing resources be directed at tackling the issues that will arise from housing development. I hope that the cross-cutting review announced in the pre-Budget report will help in the provision of infrastructure in the areas most affected by new developments.

The essential lock in the process is the requirement that the needs are assessed and agreed, and that before work starts the Government and local authorities decide who picks up the bill. As the people of Whiteley know,
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it is all too easy to put off those decisions until the housing is built. Other priorities become more pressing and urgent, and it is all the harder to tackle existing problems.

If the Government want more houses to be built, they need to play their part by ensuring that the money is available to provide the roads, schools, public transport and GP surgeries that an expanding population needs. If they are not prepared to meet their share of the bill, they should not be forcing councils to allow more and more houses to be built, putting a greater and greater strain on an infrastructure originally designed to meet the needs of a much smaller population.

I ask Members on both sides of the House to recognise the important issues that arise from housing development and to see the Bill, and the principles it sets out for reaching an agreement on infrastructure needs and costs and payment before work starts, as an essential way of guaranteeing for our constituents a means of securing the services that they need. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Mark Hoban, Mr. Mark Prisk, Mr. David Lidington, Andrew Selous, Mr. Brian Binley, Mr. Mark Francois, Mrs. Maria Miller, Mr. Mark Lancaster, Mr. David Gauke and Peter Viggers.

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