New Towns

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:17 pm on 27th February 2003.

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Photo of Philip Hammond Philip Hammond Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) 4:17 pm, 27th February 2003

I look forward to having that discussion with the hon. Gentleman when the draft housing Bill is published, but the issue of compensation will arise. Local authorities can compulsorily purchase properties, but the compulsory letting of properties suggested in the communities plan is not compulsory purchase but the state's requiring a landlord to take an action that he might not otherwise take. That is a significant step.

There will be issues relating to compensation. I do not know whether the Government intend to allow landlords who are not licensed and cannot let their property to require the local authority to purchase it. It would be interesting to learn that, but it might be more appropriate to discuss it when the draft housing Bill is published.

Recommendation (b) draws attention to the problems of low density, and the Government's response cites the Greenwich millennium village, which on the face of it looks like an interesting example of a new high-density sustainable development of 80 dwellings per hectare. Hon. Members will know that the proposed developers of the millennium dome site held an exhibition in the House a couple of weeks ago. I had the opportunity to talk to them about the Greenwich millennium village and discovered that very few of the occupants of those dwellings were families. They were mainly single people and young couples.

Of course, the population is increasingly composed of single-person households. We must recognise that, but I maintain that an essential part of the glue of our social fabric is the family. Families have an ownership of communities that single people do not. We all had the experience when we were younger of living in areas mainly composed of single person households, in which people arrive in their cars and leave in their cars. There is not the same sense of community that there is when families are present. I am concerned that no one has yet come up with a model for high-density urban living that will be attractive to families with children as opposed to professional couples and single households.