§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Baroness Hayman
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement being made by my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister in another place. The Statement is as follows:
"Madam Speaker, I wish to make a Statement on planning for the communities of the future. A document setting out our approach is published today and has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. This document includes a response to the public consultation on the previous administration's Green Paper, Household Growth: Where Shall We Live?
"I hope we can refocus this debate and, in doing so, change some of the language we use in it. To my mind, much of the debate so far has been clouded by unhelpful language, crude figures and confused statistics. For example, the term 'brownfield' is not helpful. I propose to talk about recycled land, which can, of course, be in cities, towns or villages. Greenfield is too often confused with green belt, as if the two were always the same. Most importantly, while the technical term 'household growth' is sometimes necessary, it does not adequately describe our main concern, which is to develop sustainable communities now and in the future.
"I hope that, following today's Statement, the Opposition will join us in a sensible debate about how to achieve that aim, while recognising the real difficulties involved in meeting household growth in a sustainable way. My department published the latest projections of growth in the number of households in March 1995 under the previous administration.
"The projections suggest that around an extra 175,000 households a year will form in the 25 years from 1991 to 2016. This is because of population growth and because people are living longer and couples are separating more often. Household growth has been outstripping population growth increasingly since the turn of the century.
"The dilemma is clear cut and affects us all—how to accommodate more households and, at the same time, protect our precious countryside, without rents, house prices or homelessness spiralling upwards. It is not just a matter of how many households but where they will live.
"There are four key elements in our new approach: first, increased flexibility. We shall emphasise that the projections are guidance not building requirements. Secondly, more decentralisation. Regional planning conferences will have more responsibility and accountability in deciding the most sustainable way of meeting the needs of their communities. Thirdly, making the best possible use of previously developed land and existing buildings. We must put the heart hack into our cities and put cities at the heart of our strategy. Fourthly, what I set out today is part and parcel of our determination to get better integration of a range of policies which affect communities.
424 "In order to achieve greater flexibility, we are determined to get away from a simplistic 'predict and provide' approach in housing, as we have done for road building. We will treat the household projections as guidance, not house building requirements. Moreover we will allow for greater flexibility in adjusting regional and local plans to ensure local provision is meeting local need over time.
"Decentralisation is an essential aim of this Government whether in devolution, in establishing the regional development agencies, or in our proposals for London. We therefore propose to strengthen the role of the regions in translating projections into regional planning guidance. The regional planning conferences will work together with the government offices to determine how much extra housing is needed in their regions.
"The aim will be to increase the local ownership of the figures so that local authorities translate this new regional guidance into plans and actions on the ground. I want to see better public information on the consequences of decisions on releasing land for housing, so that those responsible can be held accountable and the public debate can be better informed. I want this to be a truly bottom-up approach.
"The conferences may be able to justify lower or higher housing figures than those implied by the projections, but we will expect local authorities to monitor and report on the effects of their decisions. If the effects are damaging, authorities will need to act—or we may need in the last resort to intervene. But the whole philosophy of our new approach is to strengthen local responsibility and to have a bottom-up approach.
"We will move to this new approach as quickly as possible—in the reviews of regional planning guidance which are already underway.
"As soon as new regional planning guidance is ready, possibly as early as next year, it will be open to local authorities to review their development plans.
"In considering development plans in advance of new regional planning guidance, I will continue to treat each case on its merits, taking account of this statement.
"It is our firm policy to protect our countryside and revitalise our towns and cities, by maximising the use of recycled land and existing buildings. One of the most effective ways of relieving the pressure on the countryside is to revitalise our cities and improve the quality of urban life. That is why I have called for an urban renaissance in Britain.
"This will require a whole range of measures. It is not just a matter of urban housing, let alone planning. It is about tackling the range of problems affecting the quality of urban life—whether it is crime, education, jobs, transport or the environment. Many of these same problems also affect rural communities, to which we must also direct our attention.
"Last Wednesday, I unveiled the winner of the millennium village competition. This is a flagship scheme, providing 1,400 homes on recycled land at 425 Greenwich. The development will be built to the highest quality of architectural and environmental design. Energy use will be 80 per cent. better than average. Every home will be linked to the Internet, opening new horizons of communication. This will be a development for a whole community. There will be homes for rent as well as homes to buy, with provision for jobs, shops, public transport, health and schooling.
"The millennium village will point the way for urban regeneration in the future and I have asked English Partnerships to seek out other similar sites for urban villages to share the benefits throughout the country.
"This initiative will run alongside our other main programmes—nearly £1 billion under the capital receipts initiative, £250 million announced last week under the Estates Renewal Challenge Fund and our other urban regeneration programmes.
"These sorts of initiatives will help to meet a higher proportion of future housing need on recycled land in our towns and cities, rather than in the countryside.
"The target set by the previous administration was `that, by 2005, half of all new housing should be built on re-used sites'. In practice, it was able to achieve an average of 42 per cent. between 1985 and 1995—rising from 38 per cent. in 1985 to 50 per cent. in 1995. Those figures are national averages—ranging from 33 per cent. in the East Midlands to 83 per cent. in London. But the target was not based on any assessment of the availability of recycled land.
"In future, we will expect each regional planning conference to make a proper assessment of land availability and set regional targets for the use of recycled land. This has never been done before and is an important change. It will sharpen the focus of policy and action on the ground.
"Last week, I asked my department to work with English Partnerships and local government to create a national database of land use which will give local authorities reliable information on the amount of recycled land available for housing.
"Today, I can go further. Local authorities, developers, builders, and the professions have all been looking for a lead. To spearhead this unprecedented collective effort, I have established a Task Force to help make better use of recycled land. I have asked my noble friend Lord Rogers of Riverside to lead it. It will co-ordinate and develop the wide range of activity and innovation underway.
"I consider that a national target for the use of recycled land can help guide regions and local authorities, and help them improve on their performance. With our new policies in place, we expect local planning authorities to be able to raise the national proportion of new homes to be built on previously developed land to 60 per cent. over the next 10 years. We will come back to refine the national target in the light of regional targets when they are known and when our database is established.
426 "We also want for the first time to measure separately the re-use of previously developed land in urban areas and in rural areas, so we can get a better focus on urban re-development.
"Many of the respondents to the Green Paper accepted that 60 per cent. would not be easy. No-one should underestimate the problems and costs of redeveloping some sites, such as those which are contaminated. Indeed, it cost over £100 million to clean up the Greenwich millennium peninsula alone.
"If we are to make our towns and cities attractive places to live and work in, we must ensure a good quality of life. That is why we reject so-called 'urban cramming' and pressure to build on green spaces in towns. Our parks and green spaces are part of what makes town living attractive. That is why we have strengthened the protection against building on school playing fields.
"I now come to an important new element in our proposals. We propose to follow a sequential approach to the location of new housing and a phased approach to the release of land. Whenever possible, recycled land in urban areas should be built on first, provided it can be well linked to public transport, jobs, shops and other facilities. The same tests will also apply to the sequence of development of greenfield sites. We will also need to allow for release of empty property and so called 'windfall sites'.
"Some of the responses to the previous Government's Green Paper called for economic instruments, such as a greenfield tax, to be introduced. As a first step, we want to open up debate on the use of this type of measure. Final decisions on taxation are, of course, a matter for the Chancellor.
"Much of the debate has concentrated on urban housing, but we must also allow for the housing needs of people in rural areas. Many country people are deeply concerned at the lack of affordable housing, often while houses are bought up by wealthier commuters or bought as holiday cottages. A young couple in a village have every much a right to a decent home as their counterparts in the town.
"Members will be aware of the recent report by the Rural Development Commission, the '1997 survey of rural services', which highlighted specific problems in the rural economy. Communities fall into decline and are no longer able to sustain jobs and essential local services. These problems are particularly acute in our former coalfield communities, which are often in rural areas, where the pit closures left those communities devastated. We must find new ways to address these problems. We want to see thriving communities in our rural areas—a living countryside.
"It was the post-war Labour government which laid the foundations of the modern town and country planning system, including green belts and national parks.
"The Government remain committed to protect the green belts and the wider countryside—protection of the green belt is as strong as ever.
427 "Any new development, whether in town or country, must he sustainable development. And there will be exceptional cases—such as in Hertfordshire—where pursuing the most sustainable solution leads to adjustments to green belts.
"Nevertheless I would point out that since we came into office, more green belt—over 30,000 hectares—has been added than taken away by changes to boundaries. I anticipate that trend will continue during this Parliament.
"Finally, successful community development depends on a wide range of policies. We will tilt the balance in favour of urban development—not only through the planning process itself, but through fairer regional development, improving our public transport, raising standards in our schools and tackling crime.
"We shall now consult on how best to implement these proposals and take them forward in partnership with those most involved, especially the regional planning conferences.
"This statement represents a break with the past on one of the most important issues facing us today: how and where we should live. We want to replace the top-down 'predict and provide' mentality of the past, with a system which is more responsive, more accountable, and better able to revitalise our towns and cities and protect a living countryside, which we can all enjoy.
"I believe these proposals will help us achieve our twin aims of an urban renaissance and of ensuring we hand on a green and pleasant land for future generations."
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
§ 4.30 p.m.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lady for repeating the Statement in this House. The Statement represents a significant change of heart on the part of the Government. It is regrettable that it had not been made before several disastrous decisions.
In the light of this review, can the Minister say whether the extra 12,000 houses that were permitted in East Sussex, the 150 acres of industrial development of green belt near Sutton Coldfield, the 12,000 acres of green belt released for house building near Newcastle and the 10,000 houses to be built on green belt land at Stevenage covering 1,000 acres will be reconsidered? Will the Minister acknowledge that the then Shadow Minister for Housing, Mr. Raynsford, was clearly wrong when he described the target of 60 per cent. as a recipe for disaster and, perhaps more important, confirm that the belief that the green belt is "up for grabs", as referred to by another present Minister, no longer exists in the Department?
The Statement says that more green belt has been added than taken away. Whatever definitions of land one uses, whether "green belt", "greenfield" or "recycled land", the fact is that when green and undeveloped land is lost through boundary changes, that undeveloped, open and green land is taken away. It is 428 no good saying that one has increased the amount of land classified as green belt; when what I have described occurs, there is a net loss of undeveloped land.
I hope the Minister will agree that, in the light of the Statement, there is now some common ground. The previous government doubled the amount of green belt, toughened the restrictions on green belt development and made it clear that the projected 4.4 million homes could not be achieved by the use of greenfield sites. The previous administration pushed up the proportion of new homes being built on brownfield sites, as the Statement acknowledges, to some 50 per cent. Indeed, the Conservative Party made a manifesto commitment that more than 60 per cent. of the required homes should be built on brownfield sites. We suggested two-thirds; Friends of the Earth and the United Kingdom Round Table on Sustainable Development suggested 75 per cent.
The statement refers to planning tools. Perhaps the Minister will be kind enough to tell the House whether account will be taken of planning procedures. If the building targets are to be achieved, there is a need for as many decisions as possible to be made within the statutory time. But they should be real decisions, not refusals by local authorities with a request for resubmission in order to keep up the number of decisions made within the eight-week period.
The Statement also mentions a greenfield tax as having been referred to in the responses to the previous administration's consultation paper. I hope the Minister will acknowledge that there may be grave doubts about such a tax in that it would somehow give acceptability to the idea of developing open sites and would probably not be effective unless levied at a penal rate.
The Statement also refers to decisions being taken at a regional level. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell the House a little more about how the regional targets are to be set. Perhaps she can at some time confirm that the planning powers dropped last week from the Regional Development Agencies Bill will not be introduced under cover of decisions by regional planning conferences. Given the statutory planning role of local authorities, we need to know how the regional planning conferences will interact with local authorities, which are the accountable planning authorities in the area.
The involvement of the noble Lord, Lord Rogers of Riverside, will, I am sure, be welcomed on all sides of the House. His views about cities for people, and how they need to be revitalised and the quality of life improved, should be an influence for encouraging imaginative developments in cities to provide the homes needed in centres near to facilities and employment rather than outside, which lower targets for inner city housebuilding would mean and which one clearly wishes to avoid.
The Statement refers to the Millennium Village. Perhaps the Minister can at another time tell the House more about the density of that development, what provision for open space will be made there and how the contamination of the site has been dealt with. Matters of that kind will be important with regard to the development of many sites in city centres.
429 The conversion of the Government to the cause of the green belts is welcome, but the unfortunate decisions made since they have been in office, which have been more in line with Statements made previously than in this Statement, have left people wondering about their real intentions towards green belt and greenfield sites. We hope we shall see real progress towards achieving the target, reconsideration of some of the more unfortunate decisions, and evidence of a real commitment to preserving green belt and urban renewal. Those two aspects must go hand in hand if we are to achieve the aims of the Statement.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Baroness Hamwee
My Lords, I too thank the Minister for repeating the Statement and welcome it from these Benches. We welcome the commitment to changing the language and the effort to turn action on these problems into a co-operative venture, not one of confrontation.
The Minister referred to the confusion between "greenfield" and "green belt". While she and her right honourable friend are correct about that, I hope that she will be able to confirm that the protection of the green belt and, in London, metropolitan open land remains a matter of important consideration, as will the protection of areas of outstanding natural beauty, which at present do not have the statutory protection that many of us believe they should have.
We welcome all efforts to ensure that projections are as up to date as possible. We regard it as essential that they should command confidence. It would be welcome if they could be rolling projections; namely, projections which remain the working figures, not projections taken as a snapshot which become out of date.
We welcome the focus on regional decision-making, though we, too, are concerned about how that decision-making will interrelate with decisions at the level of local planning authorities who want to protect their precious areas, whether in town or country, and who want to achieve affordable housing but at present do not have the mechanisms to do so. However, perhaps I may inject a note of concern and caution about whether the regional structures at present and as foreseen in the short and medium-term will be adequate. The regional planning conferences, made up of people indirectly representing local areas rather than people elected to deal with regional planning as their primary job, are probably of variable quality and certainly variable in their approach to the problems.
We also welcome the comments on the simplistic predict-and-provide approach, although I believe it has not been so much predict and provide—because the provision of affordable housing has not been achieved—as predict and prepare; or perhaps not even as much as prepare.
We note that decentralisation is an essential aim, but we note also that much of the thrust of the Statement is on centralised decisions, and certainly a centralised structure and framework.
430 We warmly support the aim to increase the local ownership of the figures, as indicated, but there is a dilemma that ownership—to use the jargon term—takes time; community participation is not a speedy process.
We note the problems affecting the quality of urban life and agree with the list. However, we note too that tackling crime requires attention to police numbers. Though I appreciate that that is not a matter for the Minister's department, tackling crime will require more investment in our police forces than the Government have attempted to provide—adopting as they have previous Treasury plans.
Much of the Statement causes me to ask how the proposals are to be achieved. How can the cost of cleaning up be met? How can good social mixes in housing be achieved, both in town and country, particularly when the investment in social housing leaves an enormous shortfall?
I note the establishment of the task force and welcome the appointment of the noble Lord, Lord Rogers of Riverside. In view of his commitment to lively urban areas I shall be interested to know more of his remit to co-ordinate and develop a wide range of activity and innovation. It is a huge task hut, at any rate in the Statement, not a well-defined task.
I note the reference to the release of empty properties and to allowing for such release. I assume that that is in connection with the statistics. I hope that the Minister can say something more about how the use of empty properties—particularly that in public ownership—can be encouraged. I hope, too, that in the whole debate attention can also be paid to the refurbishment of our housing stock. Not to attend to the condition of housing stock will mean increasing, not reducing, the problem.
As I indicated, though we welcome the Statement, we regard it more of a Statement than a set of proposals. We look forward to discussing mechanisms to achieve the laudable objectives, particularly the measures which I accept are within the aegis of the Exchequer rather than within the Minister's department. I hope, too, that there will be some carrots in the proposals as well as sticks. I do not believe that, without carrots, any of the sticks can work. We welcome taking forward this difficult issue.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Baroness Hayman
My Lords, I am grateful for the welcome given, with differing degrees of grudgingness from the two Front Benches opposite, to the Statement, and particularly to the announcement of the appointment of my noble friend Lord Rogers of Riverside to lead the task force. The task force will play an important role in the identification of recycled land that can be used.
A number of detailed questions were raised and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, was right to point out that we are at the beginning of a process. This is very much setting out the framework that the Government wish to see; the policies that we believe will enable the framework to develop, and for us to meet our aims. But it is a matter on which we must consult, particularly with those who will have the prime responsibility for implementation and particularly at a regional level. 431 There is, therefore, a lot of work still to be done, but we believe that we have a firm foundation on which to build.
The noble Baroness also said that we should be setting ourselves robust targets on figures in which we all have confidence. That has been one of the problems that undermined some areas of the debate in the past, particularly in relation to the key issue of targets for re-used land by 2005. Those targets are based on evidence of what is achievable and that is why we are proposing a database of land uses. It will be crucial in establishing exactly what can be done at local and regional levels.
In that regard we are talking about achievement, and that must be the crucial point. With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, it is not a question of saying, "Our target is bigger than your target"; it is about what we manage as a nation to achieve and how we manage to strike the real balances that must be struck between the need for affordable homes and housing to meet household growth and the desire both to protect the countryside and regenerate urban areas.
I stress again something that is accepted in this House; that is, that it is important that we do not believe that we protect the countryside simply by maintaining it in aspic as it is now. There are rural housing needs, particularly for local families, just as there are needs for rural transport, rural shopping, rural education and rural jobs. We must look at those communities as well as the urban communities.
On the question of looking at regional planning conferences and how they take the situation forward, it is essential that they are strong enough to do that work; to command confidence among the local authorities with the targets that they set; and, as I said, to monitor the results. The government offices for the regions will be working with the regional planning conferences because we do not want it to be an exercise in centralisation—a danger to which the noble Baroness alluded. We want to reach agreement with regional planning conferences rather than having to overrule them.
It was a shame that the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, chose to categorise the decisions that have been taken as "disastrous". It is important to look both at the overall commitment of this Government to the green belt and the overall increase in green belt provision that has happened in the past months. For example, there was the creation of a whole new green belt around Durham. It is important that we look not at boundaries that are unchanging and unchangeable, but at the functions that the green belt is meant to fulfil and at how effectively it is doing that. We cannot lose sight of the overall aims which concern sustainability.
Decisions that have been made were made on that basis. In terms of reconsidering those decisions—for example, in relation to Newcastle—the changes to the unitary development plan have been adopted. In relation to West Sussex, the authority sought judicial review and therefore it would be wrong for me to comment. We have no plans to review other decisions. However, it is open to local authorities to review their own plans in the light of the new regional planning guidance, once it has been prepared.
432 Moving from 50 per cent.—the House should remember that the achievement under the 50 per cent. target was actually an average of 42 per cent.—to a 60 per cent. target for new homes on recycled land is a challenging target. That was recognised by those who responded. Those targets need to be based on hard information and that is what we will get through the land use database.
Regarding the details of the millennium village, I shall write to the noble Lord on the issue of density. However, as I pointed out in the Statement, the cost of the reclamation was very high. We were talking of £100 million. It is the relative costs as between greenfield and recycled land development which have led many people to raise the issue—although the Green Paper did not—of economic instruments. Many people argued that local authorities would need adequate tools in order to achieve higher rates of recycling. They suggested greenfield taxes, incentives in relation to the use of recycled land or a greater use of planning obligations. The recent Statement that we issued, Modernising Planning, proposes examining the issue and holding discussions. I note the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, and repeat mine: ultimately these are issues for the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Finally, turning to the specific point about the regional development agencies' reserve planning powers, in another place my honourable friend the Minister for the Regions, Regeneration and Planning agreed that in the light of arguments put on behalf of the Local Government Association from our own side during the Committee stage of the Bill, he would re-examine the need for reserve planning provisions—the provisions in Clauses 24 to 27 of the Bill to be transferred from English Partnerships are very much "reserve" provisions—and bring forward amendments in time for Report stage.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Lord Swinfen
My Lords, the Minister said that one of the problems causing a shortage of housing was couples separating. Without going into any Budget secrets (because I know that she cannot) can the Minister assure the House that the Government are examining both their fiscal policy and their social security policy to ensure that every possible help is given to couples to encourage them to stay together? That will help in reducing the demand for separate housing.
On another point, there are centres of cities and towns which are dead, particularly after the shops close. They used not to be. I am sure that there is a lot of old residential accommodation above shops which is now not used. Can encouragement be given to the owners and lessors of those shops to ensure that that wasted accommodation is brought back into residential use? Not only will it help to house people; but also, because people will live regularly in those areas, it will help to make those centres safer in the evening in relation to both individuals and property.
§ Baroness Hayman
Yes, my Lords, we have discussed previously in this House the need to ensure 433 that residential property over shops is brought into use wherever possible. I very much accept the noble Lord's point. If we are to regenerate city centres, we must make them places where people want to live, where they are able to live in retirement and where they feel safe to bring up their children. That means examining a whole range of issues. People will not wish to live in places which are desolate wastelands at night, where they do not feel secure and where the environment is not one in which they and their families wish to conduct their lives. It is important to examine specific issues and ensure mixed developments—shopping, residential and leisure developments—and that feeds into the sequential approach to planning permissions for other developments, particularly those that are out of town in terms of matters such as shopping.
Turning to the issue of marital breakdown increasing demand for household formation, it is an example of how wide the policies to be considered need to range. The social factors that contribute to housing demand go far wider, as the noble Lord pointed out, than simply the responsibilities of any one government department.
§ Baroness Nicol
My Lords, I warmly welcome the Statement, and I am sure that it will be widely welcomed in the country. I wish to put two very brief questions. I was pleased to hear that there will be a presumption in favour of using recycled land in localities first before greenfield developments are encouraged. Will any kind of advice or guidance be issued to local authorities to make sure that they are aware of the desire for that presumption? Secondly, have the Government made quite sure that everyone is aware of the polluter pays principle? In many cases, the authors of the contamination of land can be traced, and we have a firm commitment to use that principle wherever possible. It would be of considerable help in encouraging development on recycled land.
§ Baroness Hayman
My Lords, I note my noble friend's point regarding the importance of ensuring that all possible resources are brought in to clean up the land that needs to he used again. On the point about advice to local authorities, it is right that, although much is going on, there is also a need for a lead in this area, and for examples of good practice for local authorities, developers, builders and the professions to know where they can go in order to ensure that their efforts contribute to the national effort. I am sure that the task force led by my noble friend Lord Rogers of Riverside will include in its agenda not only how it can co-ordinate and develop the wide range of activity and innovation that is under way, but also how it can make sure that advice is disseminated to those who need to implement it.
§ Lord Rix
My Lords, several references have been made to the millennium village at Greenwich and the clearance of the millennium site at a cost of £100 million. Does the Minister agree that if urban development is to take place successfully, particularly in the millennium village, it would be a tragedy if the 434 Greenwich Theatre, which is already in place there, were to be allowed to close for the want of a quarter of a million pounds? I should have thought that the theatre would provide much-needed help to the infrastructure of the millennium village when it is finally built. Secondly, will the Minister assure the House that in the millennium village and in other urban developments of a similar nature, there will be due reference and that due care will be taken to provide housing for those in need and under care in the community?
§ Baroness Hayman
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord on raising two issues which I know are dear to his heart in the context of this Statement and the millennium village. So far as the theatre is concerned, I know that my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister is anxious that this should be a rounded development in which people can take leisure, receive education, do their shopping and everything else. While in no way committing the Government to the expenditure that the noble Lord suggests, I will certainly draw to the attention of my right honourable friend the needs of the theatre.
On a broader point, it is proper to remind us that, when we talk of communities, developments have to be inclusive and meet the needs of a wide range of citizens.
§ Lord Howell of Guildford
My Lords, now that the famous 4.4 million figure for housing projection has in effect been declared redundant, or indeed watered down, does the Minister agree that it would be sensible to advise all the county authorities which are busy reviewing their structure plans, holding public inquiries and spending quite a lot of public money on the basis of those figures, to freeze their plans for the time being since, clearly, they are based on invalid figures which are to be revised?
§ Baroness Hayman
My Lords, I am not sure that the noble Lord is right to say that the figures are to be revised and are necessarily invalid. The technical figures for household projection and projected growth will still have a role to play. What we are doing is making sure that those figures are for guidance, and are not requirements for building. In fact, many of the development plans coming forward at the moment are based not on the 4.4 million figure from 1995, but in fact the earlier, 1992 figures.
§ Lord Taylor of Gryfe
My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on these exciting and imaginative plans. In her peroration she said something about restoring England's land. I should like to ask whether this is a devolved subject. Will the imaginative plans that have been outlined this afternoon apply to the Scottish parliament, which is to be set up in May of next year? If that is so, and if considerable public funds are involved—the millennium village will call for a large investment of public funds—will appropriate financial arrangements be made? That would enable us not only to talk about England's green and pleasant land but also about the United Kingdom's green and pleasant land.
§ Baroness Hayman
My Lords, I am almost 100 per cent. certain that the Statement refers to 435 England. I should know better than to come to your Lordships' House without adequate territorial briefing on all aspects of the matter. Perhaps I may undertake to write to my noble friend on this issue.
§ Lord Monkswell
My Lords, I thank my noble friend most warmly for repeating the Statement, which I think the whole House will very much welcome. I was particularly pleased by the reference to urban renaissance in Britain. In answer to the previous questioner, the Statement refers to Britain, and I think we should be glad about that. The Minister also said that this was the beginning of a process. I should like to press the Minister slightly on the subject of increasing household growth, which is happening mainly because people are living longer and couples are separating more often, whereas in the original projections it was said that young people tended to leave home and set up on their own. Can we hope that the Government will engage all their activities—whether it is fiscal policy, social policy, architectural policy and planning policy—to ensure not only that we have urban renaissance but also that we have a social renaissance? We can build on the idea that people should live, work and play together.
§ Baroness Hayman
My Lords, I am aware of my noble friend's interest in this subject. We should not take the social trends that have led to increased household formation as irreversible or as necessarily to continue. A whole range of different factors influences the numbers of households, factors such as younger people living away from home earlier, marriage breakdown and elderly people living on their own rather than in groups, an issue which we discussed in your Lordships' House last week. There are significant factors at work which can ebb and flow and which can change the figures. However, there is a trend of household growth going ahead of population growth which has been apparent from the beginning of the century. Although these figures may not be absolutely right and factors may change within them, we should not assume that the tide will be completely turned back.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, perhaps I may take the Minister back to the golden years of 1974 to 1979, when she and I had the privilege to represent constituencies in another place, and remind her that one of the most depressing aspects of a surgery was to sit there time after time and hear the wretched and heart-rending cases of those in housing need. Therefore, I look upon this as a Green Paper of courage and vision. I congratulate the Government and the Minister on showing that courage and vision and on bringing forward what I consider to be a comprehensive plan. Does she agree that under the fourth direction of the basis of the paper, which I took down as a range of policies which affect communities, careful consideration should be given to stimulating and encouraging the growth of co-operative housing in its many forms? Co-operative housing needs stimulus, direction and guidance. The housing corporation and the Government can do a great deal to encourage that. When the Minister and her colleagues are considering 436 what advice they should give to the various levels, I very much hope that they will be able to encourage the use of tenant management policies and objectives whereby the tenant—the member of the housing co-operative—has a far better opportunity to influence the policies than he has under any other system.
§ Baroness Hayman
My Lords, I am well aware of my noble friend's longstanding interest in matters co-operative, which even pre-dated 1974 to 1979. I very much take his point about the potential role of co-operative housing. I am sure that those representing it will contribute to the consultation on how we implement these proposals and take them forward in partnership with the range of organisations—voluntary and local authority organisations and regional planning conferences—that will need to take them in. Throughout the Statement and the formulation of policy we are looking to implement twin ends.
There is the important issue of protecting the countryside, for all the reasons that are very often expounded in your Lordships' House. But we have to do that in a way that does not create enormous stress on those who are without homes. We have to find ways of doing it that do not allow rent levels and house prices to go spiralling upwards and put even more people into the kind of housing distress which is suffered by too many in our community today.
The Earl of Harrowby
My Lords, the Minister should be congratulated on her defence of the green belt. However, I wonder whether she is aware that abuse of the green belt comes from other sources as well. I particularly refer to the West Midlands, where foreign concerns involved in industrial development are interested only in the use of green land and solely for aesthetic reasons. The department should be aware of that.
§ Baroness Hayman
My Lords, I note the points made by the noble Earl. Green belt decisions are essentially local ones. They are matters for local authorities and regional planning conferences to weigh up. The competing demands of housing and industry are best considered at a local level, with intervention only as very much the last resort.
The Earl of Harrowby
My Lords, when a £100 million subsidy is at stake it does not quite work like that.