Long-term Plan for Housing - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:42 pm on 11 January 2024.

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Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour 2:42, 11 January 2024

My Lords, I have the honour of serving on the Built Environment Committee in your Lordships’ House, along with one or two other colleagues here. We have been listening to evidence in the last few months from builders, planners and Ministers about why the 300,000 target has not been reached. I think the low point for me was evidence from an Environment Minister and the Housing Minister, who sat next to each other trying to explain why it was all very difficult. At the end of the evidence session, I thought, “When did they ever talk to each other? It is as if they are in completely different silos”. We have heard answers from the noble Baroness, Lady Penn, this afternoon about the importance of the environment. She mentioned affordable housing once or twice. The noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, mentioned that it is only in the NPPF once, I think; I may have that wrong.

When I looked at the Housing Minister’s Statement on 19 December when he launched this, I was astonished to read one paragraph which used several phrases which to me indicate what is really important for this Government. One phrase was “gentle density”—I do not know what that means, but perhaps some experts can tell me—on the design of mansard roof development. Does that really go in a Statement? There was “well-designed places”—we know what that is—and then,

“‘visual clarity’ on the design requirements”.—[Official Report, Commons, 19/12/23; col. 1266.]

Also, the word “beauty” comes into it, as the noble Baroness said. These are all very good things, especially if you want a lovely new house in the countryside, miles from anywhere, but are they the priorities for affordable housing? This is the problem. We have lost sight of what is important. I live in Cornwall and the lack of affordable housing there is just terrible. If we are to say that everything has to be a “gentle density” with “visual clarity” of place, I do not think we are going to get there—until we concentrate on what is important, which is affordable housing.