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Housing and Planning Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:39 pm on 2nd November 2015.

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Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Conservative, Wimbledon 6:39 pm, 2nd November 2015

I had prepared a brilliant speech of 20 minutes, which will probably benefit from being condensed into four and a half minutes.

It is a pleasure to follow Tim Farron, although he will understand that I disagree with almost all he said.

Last May I was elected on a manifesto that made a number of promises to those who want to own their own homes. The dream that many people have of owning their home will no longer be a dream—the Bill will start to make that dream a reality. I am particularly pleased with the concept of starter homes. It is innovative, and it is essential at a time when the prospect of home ownership stretches well into their 30s for so many, and 37% of households in the 25 to 34 age group live in private rented accommodation, and owner occupiers in the same cohort have dropped from 59% to 36% in the past decade. This is an essential part of the Bill and I welcome it wholeheartedly.

Much criticism has been made of the Bill today on two bases. The first is that in London the cap is £450,000 and outside London it is £250,000. The point is that that is a cap. As the Prime Minister said in response to the Leader of the Opposition,

“We want to see starter homes in London built at £150,000 and £200,000”—[Hansard, 14 October 2015; Vol. 600, c. 307.]

The charge is that land is being brought back into use for that purpose at a cost above development value, but it is land that would not otherwise be used. It is surplus brownfield land, so that contention is at best questionable. The Opposition argue that this will cancel out the building of other properties, particularly rental properties. I accept that 37% of affordable homes were delivered through section 106, but the land that it is proposed to use for starter homes is surplus industrial land, which would not attract section 106. There is an incentive for many developers to continue developing properties for rent through section 106, and to develop this surplus land for starter homes.

Let me deal briefly with some aspects pertaining to London. When my hon. Friend Zac Goldsmith is elected Mayor next year, he will inherit a wholly different legacy from that which my hon. Friend Boris Johnson inherited. The failure of Labour in housing supply was writ large in London, and it is a tribute to my hon. Friend that by the time he leaves office 100,000 more affordable homes will have been built.

I applaud the launch of the London Land Commission in February, and I am pleased that it is already in existence. For many years the public sector has been far too slow to bring forward excess, surplus and non-operational land. I therefore support the requirement in the Bill for local authorities to compile and maintain a register of brownfield land. I ask my hon. Friend the

Minister to consider how this may work in cities with mayoral powers. The Mayor of London—and no doubt mayors in other cities in future—has a strategic role in housing and planning. Surely the Mayor should have a formal role to co-ordinate that city-wide.

As I said, I am a huge supporter of the London Land Commission. The housing supply in London could be increased by bringing excess land into development for residential use. Will the Minister consider two small changes to the London Land Commission, which he jointly chairs? The Bill offers him the opportunity to introduce the right of first refusal for all surplus assets being sold to be offered to the land commission. It also offers him the opportunity to introduce a duty to co-operate—a duty on public authorities to work with the land commission, whether that is the London Land Commission or the Manchester land commission when it is established, to bring on that surplus land and develop those much-needed houses.

Far from being the “no home of your own Bill”, as some have charged, the Bill offers the chance for people to own their own home. Many say that an Englishman’s home is his castle. Under this Bill more people in our country will fulfil that aspiration and have the opportunity to own a castle of their own.