Sustainable Communities

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:31 pm on 5th February 2003.

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Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Deputy Prime Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Local Government and the Regions, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 12:31 pm, 5th February 2003

As my hon. Friend knows, I recently visited Milton Keynes and we had a good discussion about those problems with representatives from the local regional development agencies.

It is important that people in the community have some say about the priorities that are adopted. When there are three development agencies, all the signs may be that they will work together, but it is desirable to bring them together in one body to reach common agreement and to administer developments. We are doing that in the Thames gateway. I take on board my hon. Friend's point, and we will have further discussions with her.

My hon. Friend talks about more jobs leading to greater demand for housing in Milton Keynes. That is always a problem, but, at the same time, pockets of great deprivation exist in areas that are not normally associated with new towns. Although the general situation may appear to be good in such areas, we have to address the problems of social exclusion. That is important in the context of sustainable communities.

I say to my hon. Friend that in many areas different priorities will arise at different times. Milton Keynes is already a built-in community, and it is important that investment in infrastructure is expanded, but the Thames gateway faces a different set of problems. Given that it is a three-year programme, I had to decide on the main priorities in terms of how much money has to be put in now to create infrastructure prior to house building. We should not underestimate the amount of money that is needed—I do not want to mislead the House about that. We are back to the language of priorities. Over the next year or so, we shall try to ensure that we get the balance right—that we create sustainable communities that have the back-up infrastructure, as well as the housing.