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22 Apr 2008 : Column 421WH—continued

22 Apr 2008 : Column 422WH

Linda Gilroy: Will the Minister also consider ensuring that the three Members of Parliament representing Plymouth constituencies are involved in that regular reporting system?

Mr. Wright: I pledge to do that. I also suggest that the Minister for the South West would be interested in the matter as well, and I hope to include him in that role.

Plymouth is one of eight locations in the south-west awarded Government new growth point status in November 2006. That initiative was launched in December 2005 as part of our response to Kate Barker’s review of housing supply and after the Government invited local authorities to submit sustainable growth proposals. The initiative is intended to be a long-term and sustainable partnership for growth between Plymouth city council and the Government designed to support the sustainable delivery of homes, jobs and relevant infrastructure.

Quite rightly, Plymouth was identified in the draft regional spatial strategy as a strategically significant city. That strategy and the new growth point bid propose that Plymouth deliver up to 1,500 homes per annum from 2002 to 2026—a total of 24,500 homes—which would represent a 35 per cent. increase on the existing level as set out in current planning guidance. The growth strategy that we have supported focuses on a number of regeneration areas and brownfield sites, which I have mentioned already, with a proposal for a new community at Sherford, on the eastern edge of the city.

As part of the new growth point pilot fund, in 2007-08, my Department awarded £960,000 to Plymouth for projects supporting the city’s new growth point proposals. Some £710,000 of that grant was committed to preparation costs of transport modelling and the eastern corridor major scheme bid. The balance of £250,000 was provided as contribution to the start-up costs of the Plymouth city development company.

Last year, the Government invited existing new growth points to submit delivery plans, including proposals for additional funding for medium-term projects from 2008-09 to 2010-11. Plymouth’s delivery submission, drawn up in consultation with South Hams district council, was awarded £780,000 of revenue funding and £8.89 million of capital funding—a total of £9.67 million for the three-year period. Plymouth has outlined that the revenue support will be allocated to the preparation of the major scheme transport submission, the urban fringe development plan document, the eastern corridor programme management and to enhancing capacity. The capital provision will be allocated to enhancements in the eastern and northern corridor, junction improvements to the A38, waste infrastructure projects, and city centre, public realm and green space improvements.

Naturally, such growth requires a strong economic base. I recognise my hon. Friend’s point about Plymouth being a centre of world-class expertise in marine and science technology. She made a strong and passionate case about the city’s opportunities through the establishment of the marine management organisation, as outlined in part 1 of the draft Marine Bill, which was published earlier this month. She will be aware that the proposal is to establish a new headquarters for the agency with a series of local offices, and that the location of the headquarters has not yet been determined. I understand that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will undertake consultancy work to draw up the
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criteria upon which to assess location options for the headquarters. I also understand that she is meeting the Minister for the South East soon. I wish her well with her discussions. As a former parliamentary private secretary to the then Secretary of State for Health, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Ms Hewitt), when she was in charge of dentistry, I recall my hon. Friend’s lobbying requirements and techniques with regards to a new dental school, so I know that she will do a first-class job.

I shall address a key theme in my hon. Friend’s contribution—the implications of the naval base review for Devonport. I was impressed by her contribution in last month’s Adjournment debate on that matter. She will be aware that, following the naval base review, Her Majesty’s Naval Base Devonport is looking to reconfigure operational activity to the core of the base and to release a number of parcels of land for civilian use. I reiterate what the Minister for the Armed Forces said in reply to her debate: recent suggestions that the Government are planning to close the naval base at Devonport are without foundation, but from this reconfiguration of land, income from the disposal of such sites could generate funds to support the regeneration of south yard.

South yard comprises 100 acres, and although there is a continuing need for naval use of the quay frontage, the body of the site is considered to be suited to the creation of a marine technology business park. When redeveloped, that could generate income for the retained base operations as well as provide space for complementary businesses. We recognise that the local vision is to have a cluster of leading marine businesses and research and innovation to support the naval base, which could be a key driver for the city’s economy.

I understand that partners estimate that about 3,000 high-value jobs could be created at south yard and that, as such, the naval base is part of Project Roundel. It is in discussion with partners including the RDA and Plymouth council about how a joint venture could be structured to achieve that marine technology site. I also understand that the RDA and the local authority are
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working with, and supporting, the naval base with technical studies and master planning style assessments to demonstrate the viability of such a technology park and how it could be integrated into the wider regeneration role. My Department will pledge to work with partners, wherever possible, to improve the long-term future of the land and to enhance economic growth.

My hon. Friend asked that I and my Department take an interest in ensuring a cross-government overview of the ongoing changes in naval base activity. That is an operational responsibility for the Ministry of Defence and the Royal Navy, but I pledge to do what she asks, because I agree that it will have wide implications for economic development, growth and housing need. I mentioned earlier that the Minister for the South West will, I think, play a key role as well.

My hon. Friend is correct in identifying the role of neighbourhood regeneration and the community in support of city growth, in which I think that there have been real developments in Plymouth that need to go further. I am keen to see that happen. She mentioned the east end partnership and community village which in March 2008 won a national regeneration award at the Local Government Chronicle award ceremony. Again, that reiterates that the east end partnership is a sign of the success of Plymouth in achieving growth through local community engagement.

My hon. Friend’s contribution was spot on. Plymouth is turning a corner and providing real foundations for growth. However, I would go further and say that my two hon. Friends here are providing the leadership in shaping that ambition. It is refreshing to hear for an area a positivity, ambition and aspiration that we do not always hear in debates. Plymouth has a strong local vision supported regionally in the regional spatial strategy and as one of the Government’s new growth points. We all recognise that hard work remains to be done, but we are coming from a very positive base led by my two hon. Friends. However, the creation of one of Europe’s leading waterfront cities is a vision very much worth realising.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at one minute to Two o’clock.

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