Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260-263)|
6 DECEMBER 2005
Q260 Martin Horwood: You have a very
strong emphasis in favour of brownfield sites and against greenfield
sites, which, broadly speaking, I would agree with entirely, but
there must be exceptions, surely? I think, for instance, of the
very small villages which are having their shops and schools closing
and you might want to encourage limited greenfield development
in order to make those communities more viable and more sustainable.
Would you support that?
Mr Sinden: In broad terms, yes.
We believe that there is a need for housing in rural communities.
There is perhaps, broadly, a greater need for affordable housing
in those communities in order to provide the kind of balance in
rural communities that you are suggesting. Inevitably, that will
require the use of some greenfield sites and we are encouraged
that the Government has improved the tools available to local
authorities very recently, in order to deliver that kind of housing,
by allowing rural authorities to allocate land, small sites, solely
for the provision of affordable housing.
Q261 Martin Horwood: Are you happy for
that to happen ahead of brownfield development elsewhere?
Mr Sinden: Yes; we say that we
believe there is a need, the need is not necessarily huge, in
the nature of the scale of rural settlements, but it does exist,
and there is a legitimate role for the planning system to make
provision to meet that need.
Q262 Chair: You talked earlier on about
there being a surplus of housing in every single region. Obviously,
there is always a need for a slight surplus, otherwise everybody
would be stuck where they were and unable to move. Have you looked
at what type of housing is in that surplus and whether the type
of housing actually meets the needs of people, or whether it is
all one-bedroom flats in the middle of Manchester, for example?
Mr Sinden: We have not looked
in detail at that. The situation is complex. The data, for example,
relating to empty housing is interesting. While some inroads have
been made in reducing the amount of empty homes in some regions
there is still significant opportunity there for the Government
to make address that part of the housing market, in terms of promoting
the use particularly of private sector, long-term empty housing.
We very much welcome, that a part of the response to the Barker
review, published by the Government yesterday, which indicates
that the Treasury are interested in seeing if we can improve the
practice and performance of bringing that empty housing stock
back into use. That is one key element, I think, of addressing
the issue of the excess of stock over households.
Q263 Chair: Thank you very much. Can
I ask you to answer just one more question in writing, because
we have all got to go to vote, which is to do with whether you
think that planning authorities have got sufficient powers to
ensure new housing is built to high environmental standards?
Mr Sinden: We will be happy to
Chair: Thank you.