Mr Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire, Conservative)
It is a pleasure to speak in the debate on the Housing Bill. Housing is the issue most frequently drawn to my attention by my constituents in my weekly surgeries. My local district council has a housing waiting list of about 2,000 people, so my constituency certainly has a severe shortage of social and affordable housing, which I am keen to see remedied. My own district council has plans afoot to build between 6,000 and 8,000 houses up to 2016 in order to meet local housing needs. I fully support that Conservative-run council, which is quite right to have such plans in place.
I must respond to the Minister's opening remarks about the sustainable communities plan, because my South-West Bedfordshire constituency is right in the middle of one of the communities plan areas. In their kindness and wisdom, the Government have seen fit to provide some houses for my constituents. However, it is not the 6,000 to 8,000 that we are looking for; nor even 12,000 or 16,000. No, they are planning to build 43,000 houses in the middle of my constituency. That is the equivalent of a new Dunstable or Leighton Buzzard, in an area that is already extremely congested. Many of the roads in Leighton Buzzard, Houghton Regis and Dunstable are already difficult to get through. The motorways and commuter roads to London and elsewhere are already extremely congested and the trains are often packed to overflowing, with commuters regularly having to stand as they make their daily journeys.
There is no way local employment can be provided for the 80,000-plus people who will come to live in my constituency if the Government have their way and build so many houses. My constituents' reaction is to say that the scale and nature of the proposals are wholly unacceptable. I intend vigorously to oppose the plan under the banner of "local homes for local people". The Minister said that it was a question of building houses where they were most needed. I agree, but they are not needed on that scale in my constituency. That is how my constituents feel. I also put it to the Minister that the people he intends to occupy the houses will not feel that they are in the right place either if they have to commute 40 miles to London on congested roads or overflowing trains. On the Minister's own criteria, the plan will fail through its scale and nature.