HC Deb 09 March 1999 vol 327 cc164-5
8. Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe (Bradford, South)

What steps he is taking to ensure more housing development on recycled brown-field land in Yorkshire and Humberside. [73419]

The Minister for the Regions, Regeneration and Planning (Mr. Richard Caborn)

We published our proposals for regional planning guidance in planning policy guidance note 11 on 15 February. It requires the regional planning forum for Yorkshire and the Humber to establish a target for housing development on previously used land that underpins and reflects our 60 per cent. national target.

Mr. Sutcliffe

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply which will be most welcome in Yorkshire and Humberside where we must meet a dramatic housing need. Is not that in stark contrast to the Opposition who neglected housing need and failed to provide real incentives for recycling brown-field land? Will my hon. Friend ensure that the regional development agency in Yorkshire and Humberside has an economic strategy for bringing such land back into use?

Mr. Caborn

I welcome those comments. When the Conservatives were in government, they left policy on household growth and the development of brown-field sites in a mess. However, we shall work through the issue and make a reasonable job of it. The regional development agencies will work closely with the planning authorities to ensure that there is joined-up thinking on land use, transport and economic planning so that we get a bigger bang for our buck.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)

Does the Minister recognise that one of the important issues relating to recycling brown-field land in Yorkshire, Humberside or anywhere else is the definition of the protections that English Nature provides? He may be aware that there appears to have been a reinterpretation by English Nature—or perhaps by the Department—of what "substantial effect on wildlife" means. I should be grateful if the Minister could tell me about that reinterpretation. If not, will he write to local authorities in Yorkshire, Humberside and everywhere else in the country to say whether that phrase has been reinterpreted to mean a substantial adverse effect?

Mr. Caborn

I shall write to the hon. Gentleman. There has been a reinterpretation. When we took power, there was not even a land use register designating what brown-field sites were, so it is a bit much for the Conservatives to complain. At the end of this month, we shall know for the first time what brown-field land we have and what state it is in.

Helen Jackson (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the flip-side benefit of building housing on brown-field land is the protection that that offers to green-field and green-belt sites that are under pressure? In parts of northern England where urban and rural areas sit so closely together, will my hon. Friend ensure that the benefits of brown-field development are matched by increased resources and powers for local authority enforcement bodies to protect the green belt?

Mr. Caborn

Very much so. As my hon. Friend has said, we need a sustainable policy, which the Government are pursuing. The issue is not just household growth, but sustainable transport policy, the use of brown-field sites and mixed-use development. That all adds to ensuring that we drive the urban renaissance, which will protect the green-belt, and green-field sites.