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I think my hon. Friend must have read my speech. I was about to say that people in Eastleigh felt locked out of the local planning process by a complacent council that is not listening to residents and taking them on the planning journey. No neighbourhood plans are being subjected to a referendum. Residents have not been encouraged to take part in the process; indeed, I would say that Eastleigh Borough Council has barred them from it. My inbox is full of correspondence from frustrated constituents who want to play their part in the provision of homes, but do not feel part of the process. The council is riding roughshod over where the homes should be built.
The other day I went for a ramble through the most beautiful countryside, with a view of Winchester. I walked along highways and byways, past horses and cows, and reflected that this was the area where 3,500 homes are due to be built following the publication of the “Issues & Options” paper to which I referred earlier. I think it is entirely wrong that residents learnt about that proposal just before Christmas, when present-buying, rather than house-buying, was their priority.
We need a strategic oversight for the housing of people throughout Eastleigh, and the lack of a local plan is very disappointing. However, I welcome the neighbourhood plans from Botley, which I have encouraged, and from Bishopstoke, where it has been recognised that most of the parish could be concreted over. When I spoke to the Minister yesterday, he agreed with me that the best way of providing housing locally was a locally adopted plan, and I am pleased that Eastleigh Borough Council has provided one for my constituents. They have waited for it for some time, and I want to ensure that it is not simply a rehash of the last one.
We must accept that housing is important and put it in the right context. When the Conservative coalition came into office in 2010, we inherited a housing crisis, and let us not forget that it continues today in Eastleigh because of the Liberal Democrats. So what is the future for the borough? We want homes that our children can afford, we need the right starter homes and we need to prepare the right brownfield sites. One such site in Eastleigh is about to become available, after some delay, for a new McDonald’s and new offices, but it should be used for starter homes in our community, and an Eastleigh residents group is fighting to achieve that aim. Housing is the No. 1 issue in my inbox. People are concerned about where the homes should be and how they should be built, and I believe that this Government are tackling the issue in the right way.