Housing and Regeneration Bill

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 7:01 pm on 27th November 2007.

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Photo of Richard Younger-Ross Richard Younger-Ross Shadow Minister, Culture, Media & Sport 7:01 pm, 27th November 2007

Vinyl is making a comeback.

There is more need for space, so we should not have abolished Parker Morris; we should have revised the standards to take account of the fact that houses need to be bigger to meet the expectations of the modern family. We need the 3 million homes the Minister has proposed to be well designed. Homes and estates should certainly be sustainable but they must also be well designed.

We need to make sure that houses are big enough. There must be a good mix and diversity within an area to provide a humane environment. During the 1960s, we ignored the fact that people need defensible space. They need that space so that they can flourish on their estates and not feel hemmed in. Young people need to be able to let off steam occasionally, but without every other member of the household doing the same thing because they are all bottled up together in a confined space.

My second point about healthy housing relates to diversity of housing type. I said earlier that I worked in architecture. I do not know whether I should confess that I used to design houses; perhaps I should confess that a lot of the buildings that were knocked down because they were badly designed were ones I worked on during the '70s—probably a good job, too, in many cases. I would be the first to accept that. [ Interruption. ] Conservative Members shake their heads, but I did what I was paid to do. My first job as a young technician was designing clothes racks for the balconies of tower blocks. The buildings may still be standing, but they were appalling pieces of design and should never have been built.

Julie Morgan referred to Gypsies. I want to talk about another group of caravan residents—those in park homes. We were homeless at one point and I lived in a caravan for seven years, although at only 22 ft by 7 ft my caravan was rather different from modern park homes. During the passage of the Housing Bill in 2004, the Minister considered proposals for legislation on park homes made by the all-party park home owners group. She accepted that there was a need for it and brought in some much-needed legislation. We desperately need more legislation to control bad park home owners. There is an appalling situation in a park home site in my constituency. The residents are elderly, and they are stressed because they feel they are being bullied and that the site owner is trying to get them off the site.

I ask for a Minister to visit some of the park home sites around the country. They should not write in advance to say they are coming, because then everything will be done to clean the place up first. The visits should be impromptu. I—and, I am sure, other members of the all-party group on park home owners—will facilitate them; I am happy for the Minister to visit the site in my constituency. Ministers should take a look at the conditions that we expect some people to live in.

Park homes might be moved because they are too close together; they might be less far apart than the required 6 m interval. Teignbridge district council, for instance, decided to enforce the relevant legislation. Let us consider what can happen when a park home is moved. Those who move it destroy the residents' garden. They move the home a couple of feet, and in doing so they knock down the porch. They do not reconstruct the porch for the residents. They do not rebuild the garden for them. They do not in some cases even immediately put steps in place so the residents can get up to their front door. I have seen park homes with temporary building blocks left in place instead, and with no handrail so elderly people have to stagger up them to get through the door. Because of the condition the site is left in, when it rains a torrent of mud might run down through the site. The roads are potholed. The lighting is inadequate. When the site owners have moved someone off, they will leave the electricity box broken and exposed. The residents are elderly people who want their family to visit, but they do not want to let a young child wander around a site that is in such a state—they would not do that because they care for their grandchildren's safety. They are cut off because they do not feel they can allow their family to visit them as where they live is not safe.

People such as Mr. Small who runs Buckingham Orchard can run a site in such a way, however, and the local authority says there is little it can do. I ask the Minister please to do something to help those people. They are relying on the Minister. The Government have the opportunity to accept amendments to the Bill that will deal with such situations. In a previous Bill, the Government brought in a fit and proper person requirement for owners and landlords of housing in multiple occupation. I ask them to look into adding such an amendment to this Bill.

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