My right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay), with his customary authority and sensitivity to the needs of his constituents, said that local residents opposition to housing development in their area was continually ignored by the planning
inspectorate, which is an unfortunate example of increased centralisation under this Government. He emphasised that local elected representatives needed to be able to decide. That is at the heart of our argument.
The hon. Member for Luton, South (Margaret Moran) raisedwith admirable eloquence and claritythe problem of overcrowding. In particular, she drew attention to its seriousness among black and ethnic minority people. I agree with her that we need to address the problem. Indeed, I have had the opportunity to make the point in Westminster Hall. I hope that the hon. Lady will join me in pressing the Minister to change the statutory definition of overcrowding, so that we have a more appropriate benchmark for government policy in the future. I also hope that she will join me in recognising that it was under the Conservative Government that we succeeded in increasing the amount of social housing that was supplied, and that under the present Government the amount of social housing released and supplied has diminished.
My hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wellswho deserves enormous credit for having introduced a ten-minute Bill, which a Government Whip, sadly, tried to strangle the other dayspoke with passion, fluency and great intellectual authority about the perversity of encouraging development on urban green space when the original brownfield designation was intended to ensure that industrial land was redeveloped. He pointed out, crucially, that for those of us who believe in creating more social and affordable housing, infill and garden development of the kind that we are seeing does not trigger the requirement to provide such housing that is laid down in the Governments regulations. That point was backed up by the hon. Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn).
The hon. Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush (Mr. Slaughter) spent most of his speech saying that he wished we had had another debate. Given the rest of his comments, I understand and sympathise with his desire to speak on a different motion. He did not directly address any of the concerns raised by his hon. Friends who signed the early-day motion tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells.
In voting for the motion, hon. Members will be standing up for the sort of spacious domestic environment that gives families the chance to enjoy a decent quality of life. We will be standing up for biodiversity and urban green space against policies that perversely encourage insensitive development. Most importantly of all, we will be standing up for local people, local autonomy and local government, against centralised edicts that rob people of control over their communities.
Mr. Soames: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not the height of insolence and bad manners to the Chamber that the Secretary of State, who responded at the beginning of the debate, is not here to listen to the wind-up or to the response from my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove)?
Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman has a point. [Interruption.] However, the Secretary of State has just arrived. I would not use the term insolence, but those who lead off a debate should return for the wind-up speeches. It is a strong tradition of this House, and it should be observed.
The Minister for Housing and Planning (Yvette Cooper): We have had a wide-ranging debate this afternoon. The hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Andrew Stunell) raised issues to do with environmental standards for housing, about which I agree. My right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) pointed out some of the rather absurdif unintendedconsequences that the Opposition motion would have for extensions, which would be regarded as brownfield development.
The right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay) asked about village design statements. I shall be happy to respond to him in more detail, but I assure him that we support those statements and want to give them a stronger role in the new planning guidance. My hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South (Margaret Moran) talked about the serious need for new homes in her constituency.
The hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) raised a variety of points, and I shall respond to many of them in due course. However, he raised an important issue when he said that small housing developments do not include affordable housing. I agree that that is a significant matter, and it is one of the factors supporting the introduction of the planning gain supplement that may be more appropriate for smaller sites.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush (Mr. Slaughter) raised some important points. I was very concerned by what he said about the attitude towards affordable housing of the new Conservative-controlled council in his area. That is a serious problem for people in his constituency.
Opposition Front Benchers touched on a range of issues to do with density and planning guidance. However, I can tell the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) that the Government make no apology for saying that we think that density should be greater. For many years, low-density executive developments have taken up large areas of greenfield land, and it is simply not true that one cannot build at relatively higher densities and still include gardens or wonderful designs.
I turn now to the main issues in the debate. The Opposition have called for an end to building on back gardens, but we need be clear about the facts. In 2005, 14 per cent. of new homes were built on residential land. [ Interruption. ] Opposition Members have made their points, and I want to respond. That figure includes homes built on the footprint of previous buildings, and is not confined to homes built on drives or back gardens. In 1990, in contrast, 20 per cent. of new homes were built on previously developed residential land. Therefore, the proportion of new homes being built on previously developed residential land is lower today than it was in 1990.
Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman should resume his seat. He should remember, when he intervenes on a point of order, that the wind-up speaker has only 10 minutes and that he is interfering with that time.
It is certainly true that this Government have increased the emphasis on the use of brownfield land. We make no apology for that, as the result has been a renaissance in our cities and towns, the regeneration of many abandoned industrial sites and a substantial reduction in the amount of greenfield land needed for development. According to the urban taskforce, 90 people were living in the heart of Manchester in 1990; today, 25,000 people live there and the city is thriving as a result. The proportion of new homes on former industrial and commercial sites has more than doubled since 1997 as a result of the measures we have taken.
Members have raised specific issues about brownfield categorisation. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Mr. Jenkins): the issue should not be about blocking whole categories of development as either greenfield or brownfield, but about quality and appropriateness. It should also be about meeting needs. Opposition Members must recognise that we need to make sure that we meet the needs of the next generation for homes. To listen to some of them talk about flats and the problems of developing flats, we would think that flats was a dirty word. They need to recognise that it is not planning definitions and Government requirements that put pressure on their constituencies, but need and demand for housing. We all have an obligation to respond to that.
I agree that we need to strengthen the focus on quality and design both of buildings and of their neighbouring environment. That is why we set out in December new consultation on planning guidance, which states clearly:
New development should be of high quality inclusive design...The key consideration should be whether a development positively improves the character and environmental quality of an area and the way it functions.
Although residential gardens are defined as brown field land this does not necessarily mean they are suitable for development.
Given the passion of Opposition Members, I looked up their contributions to the planning policy consultation. Unfortunately, they said nothing because they did not respondso much for their apparent commitment to improving the location and planning of housing. However, I suspect that that is not what the debate is really about. The hon. Member for Hazel Grove
Mr. Speaker: It is unfortunate that the hon. Gentleman is raising a point of order when there is a severe limit on Front-Bench speeches. I note that he tried to intervene on several occasions, so I hope that he does not want to make that point as his point of order, as I shall stop him.
Yvette Cooper: To be fair to the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth), I am happy to clarify the point. We received no responses from Opposition Front Benchers on that issuenor from the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells, who has made such a point of debating it in this place.
That is not what the debate is really about; it is about the fact that the Conservatives still oppose new housing. They still do not accept the fact that we need 200,000 new homes every year if we are to meet the needs of future generations. The hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) has not only said that she will refuse to agree to the 200,000 additional homes we need, but has also told The House Magazine that she thinks 140,000 new homes is too many. We are already building more than 140,000that number is not too high.
Mrs. Spelman: I realise that the hon. Lady is short of time so I am grateful to her for giving way, but her point about our opposition to new homes cannot be squared with the Secretary of States acknowledgement that I supported the proposal of the Conservative-controlled council in my borough to build new homes.
Conservative Members are still not facing up to the difficult question of where new homes should be built. They will not support the additional homes that we need and they will not support the additional funding for infrastructure, because they keep opposing anything like a planning gain supplement. They do not want new homes in the suburbs; they do not want them in the countryside either, where they want even more green belt to protect villages and towns. They do not want new homes on industrial land. The hon. Lady said in the Western Morning News that she objected to the £60,000 homes on former industrial and NHS sites because:
The grim reality is that the homes are in less than desirable locations such as next door to mines.
The Conservatives do not want new homes in Surrey. The hon. Member for Surrey Heath is one of 15 Tory MPs to sign an early-day motion opposing house building in Surrey. They do not want new homes in Essex eithereven more of them signed an early-day motion about that; nor do they want them in West Sussex, Hertfordshire or anywhere in the south of England, which is where they propose to cut the number of homes, not to increase them.