National Planning Policy Framework

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 5:30 pm on 20th October 2011.

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Photo of Jack Dromey Jack Dromey Shadow Minister (Housing) 5:30 pm, 20th October 2011

Given the time available, I will not.

The “brownfield first” policy was working. Last year, 76% of new dwellings were built on brownfield sites, up from 55% in 1989. There are currently enough brownfield sites on which to built 1.2 million homes. The Government must put the heart back into our high streets by protecting, not weakening, the “town centre first” policy, and Peter Aldous was right to ask the Government to do precisely that. They must not weaken the requirement to provide affordable housing, which is fundamental to meeting a growing housing crisis and ensuring the future prosperity of our young people. They should accept Labour’s proposed transitional arrangements to ensure certainty for local people, communities and developers alike. Rebecca Harris was right to say that, during the transition, local communities should be protected from predatory bids.

As the excellent contribution from the Chair of the Select Committee, my hon. Friend Mr Betts, made clear, the Government must recognise that their duty to co-operate, as it stands, is toothless and will not allow for the kind of effective strategic planning that England needs in order to deliver on our future needs in housing, economic development, waste management, transport, infrastructure and the mitigation of climate change. We must not have a planning system that is increasingly combative, rather than consensual, with applications being decided in the courts as the number of appeals goes through the roof. In the chaos that is unfolding in our planning system, more homes there will be: second homes in Marbella built by planning lawyers salivating at the prospect.

Finally, the Government need to move beyond polarising the debate by demonising their critics. Today we have heard voices from all sides of the House— [ Interruption ] from all sides of the House saying “Ministers must think again”. We need to remember that whatever amendments the Government make, they are making the most fundamental changes to a national planning system that has been in place for 60 years.

I ask the Minister to respond to this. Does he agree that, once the changes are made to the draft national planning policy framework that have been demanded by both sides of the House, there will be a second process of consultation? In particular, will he indicate now that the transitional period should, as we have argued, be extended? Will the Government ultimately have the courage of their convictions and hold a vote on the final national planning policy framework—in the House of Commons and in the House of Lords—so that we can have a system in which the public can put their trust for years to come?+