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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her kind comments and draw attention to my registered interests.
I have pressed on this issue for a number of years and I am delighted that the proposal has positive cross-party support. It will make a real difference. The principle is fundamentally clear. At the moment, local authorities in rural areas have the option, in effect, of either brownfield development within previously developed areas, which is a good thing, or the opportunity to extend existing villages and towns sequentially by a series of developments to meet housing needs. That can be a good thing but often it is deeply unpopular because it builds on the very places that people most value.
By going down the route of allowing local authorities the option of using the New Towns Act to acquire land to create new settlements to meet local needs—going through a local process and with local support—it gives an opportunity to create great places without treading so hard on the toes of those who live in wonderful historic communities. Many of these, frankly, are at breaking point. They have problems with traffic congestion, getting children into schools and meeting service needs.
Local authorities will be able to do this in a way that allows the owners of the land to be properly compensated and to do well out of it. None the less, it allows, through the capture of land value, for these places to be well served with schools, shops, GP surgeries, parks, sports facilities and all the other things that make a great place while at the same time making housing available at much lower cost. This is because we can make land available to small builders, self-builders and housing associations for starter homes. A whole range of needs often are not met at the moment because land values are so high or land is not available; or great places are not delivered because the person who owned the land took the money and the taxpayer was left scrabbling to provide the schools, the shops and the GP and other services that are needed.
It is an extra tool in the box. We can plan for the housing which we agree across the House is needed. It is not the only solution but it changes the opportunities available to local communities and local government. It will be hugely welcomed. I have spoken to a wide range of organisations, from the National Association of Local Councils, of which I am president, to CPRE, to the country landowners, to many of the major housebuilders, to local government bodies and to many of the local councils that have pioneered this kind of approach. It has universal support.
This is an important change. I greatly thank the Minister, her colleagues and the other parties for the support that they have given to it. I particularly thank my colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Best, who has helped me bring this to the House.