HC Deb 15 November 1996 vol 285 cc376-7W
Mr. Renton

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to revise the predict and provide assumption for house building in the south-east of England. [3096]

Mr. Clappison

One of the objectives of the town and country planning system is to provide houses in a way which is consistent with sustainable development. In planning for future housing, and where it should go, planning authorities need to look 10 to 15 years ahead. Projections of future household formation are just one of the factors that need to be considered by the regional planning conferences when advising the Secretary of State on future housing requirements to be included in regional planning guidance. These figures are subsequently tested in development plans. The process, therefore, is not one of predict and provide.

Restricting the amount of additional housing to reduce consumption would make housing more expensive and mean that those on medium and low incomes were less able to afford a satisfactory quality of housing. There is little evidence that the availability of housing leads people to set up new households: social factors appear to be stronger.

The Government recognise that development pressures have been most intense in the south-east. The need to steer growth towards previously developed land and areas in need of economic regeneration, and to take advantage of the increasing European orientation of the regional economy, has led the Government to produce sub-regional planning guidance in the form of the Thames gateway planning framework. The Government are also committed to the target set in the housing White Paper—that, by 2005, half of all new homes will be built on reused sites.

The Government are also looking at policies which could reduce the impact or pattern of household formation on the current planning policies for housing and will shortly be publishing a Green Paper to take this discussion forward.