HC Deb 23 October 2001 vol 373 cc132-3
4. Mr. Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford)

What representations he has received from councillors concerning housebuilding targets for Hertfordshire. [5570]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Ms Sally Keeble)

My right hon. Friend has received no representations from individual councillors since comments were invited in November 2000 on the proposed changes to housing distribution, although local authorities made representations. There have been no representations since the final figures were announced in March 2001.

Mr. Prisk

Given the Government's clear commitment to reduce social exclusion, can the Minister confirm that in Hertfordshire and elsewhere she will not allow housing intended for affordable homes to be replaced with more expensive market housing?

Ms Keeble

The Government's approach is to ensure that there is an element of affordable housing in any housing application. That is clearly set out in the guidelines. We have also set out figures for housing densities. Our proposals will ensure that we provide for good-quality housing in urban areas and for people in all income brackets and that we protect greenfield and green belt areas.

Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West)

I confirm to the Minister that councillors in Milton Keynes and the business community take a similar view to that expressed by Hertfordshire councilors—we need greater emphasis on affordable housing. In particular, will she ensure that the current study of housing need in the Bedfordshire-Northamptonshire-Milton Keynes triangle considers the successful model of Milton Keynes and its development corporation as a way to carry forward plan-led development, including affordable housing to the north of Milton Keynes?

Ms Keeble

The Government are well aware of the need to ensure that there is adequate affordable housing. That point has been raised by Members on both sides of the House. We shall certainly ensure that all the lessons that can be learned from the study in the Northamptonshire-Milton Keynes area are considered carefully and applied nationally.

Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden)

Is the Minister aware that the urban capacity study commissioned by the incoming Conservative-controlled Hertfordshire council administration shows that there are enough brownfield sites in Hertfordshire on which to build all the houses needed not only up to 2016, but up to 2024, without needing to build on the green belt? Will she therefore take steps to rescind the approval disastrously given by the Deputy Prime Minister when he was Secretary of State for the Labour-Liberal plan to build an unprecedented number of houses on the green belt in Hertfordshire—an approval which will damage every county in the country with a green belt to protect?

Ms Keeble

I am aware of the capacity study being done by the new administration and I understand that it is studying the figures and deciding how best to take matters forward. I am also aware that the capacity study shows that the administration can provide for its target housing in the space that it has. It is not possible for me to comment on individual planning applications.

Ms Claire Ward (Watford)

Is my hon. Friend aware that the sites that Conservative-controlled Hertfordshire county council has identified in my constituency are bits of green verge and small sections of greenfield land in an already congested town? It wants to protect areas in other parts of the county, but the need for the development west of Stevenage is clear. It is absolutely essential, as otherwise problems will be caused in my own constituency.

Ms Keeble

I repeat that I cannot comment on an individual planning application. Part of the proposals in policy planning guidance 3 provide for a sequential test, which would mean that the most appropriate sites for development should be taken first. It is important that that consequential test is properly applied to protect both greenfield areas and existing communities.