Clause 89

Part of Localism Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:30 pm on 15th February 2011.

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Photo of Nick Raynsford Nick Raynsford Labour, Greenwich and Woolwich 5:30 pm, 15th February 2011

I entirely agree about the importance of appropriate sub-regional or other cross-regional organisational structures in those parts of the country where natural economic linkages cross regional boundaries. That was very much the case for all the development area proposals of the previous Government, and it is not incompatible with having regional spatial strategies.

I hope that this will be familiar to the Under-Secretary, even though he represents a different part of the country, but the Thames Gateway embraces three regions. Nevertheless, a sensible planning framework was put in place to ensure that the common interests of authorities within the area were recognised. All Members who are interested in ensuring effective economic development will be troubled at the lack of progress in the Thames Gateway and in many other development areas.

I spoke about the false premises on which the Government’s policies are based. One is that the planning system is bust, but it is not. It needs reform and change, but that should be handled in an incremental way, as has been done in the past, to avoid disruption. Unfortunately, the Government have not learned that lesson. The second of their flawed analyses is the assumption that the old system was not delivering the necessary housing, and that it was incapable of doing so.

The Minister of State will recall that during the Committee’s evidence-taking sittings, I reminded him and his colleagues of the net additions to the housing stock, which is the Department’s favoured measure of housing output. I remind the Committee that, from 2001-02 until 2007-08, every year saw between 10,000 and 15,000 net additions to the housing stock per annum. From 130,500 net additions in 2001-02, we saw the figures increase to 143,680 in 2002-03, 154,770 in 2003-04, 169,450 in 2004-05, 186,380 in 2005-06, 198,770 in 2006-07 and 207,370 in 2007-08—six years of continuous growth, taking us closer to the target of 240,000 homes a year set by Kate Barker in her review. The idea that the system was not delivering is nonsense. The argument is completely false, and I am surprised that Government Members have continued to peddle something that is simply untrue.

The truth is that there was delivery of housing, the numbers were going up and we were approaching the level at which we would have satisfied the level of need, all of which was halted, of course, by the recession. The recession had a catastrophic impact on the housing market, not only in this country but in Ireland, much of the rest of Europe and certainly north America. That is why we are now back in a position of housing numbers being drastically down. In 2009-10, we saw only 128,000 net additions to the housing stock. However, that was a consequence not of the planning system but of the recession. We now need the correct approach to bring us out of the slump that we have got into, to build confidence, to build new homes and to ensure that we get back on track to increase housing.