It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Dorries. I congratulate my hon. Friend Stuart Andrew on securing this debate and outlining some key issues for his constituency. I know that he has fought hard on them; he has lobbied me heavily and invited me to his constituency. I was pleased to meet some of the residents whom he mentioned.
I appreciate my hon. Friend’s concerns about the high housing requirement in the Leeds core strategy. I know that the issue is of considerable importance to him and the local communities that he represents, and it is a subject that we have met to discuss. I am acutely conscious of the impact that planning decisions have on local communities and our wider overall environment, as well as on the investment and growth that our economy needs. That is especially true of housing. It is important not only that we deliver the houses that this country so desperately needs but that they are designed to a high quality and, as hon. Friends have outlined, put in the right places.
As my hon. Friend will appreciate, given Ministers’ quasi-judicial role in the planning system, I cannot comment on specific proposals or plans. None the less, he has raised some important issues relating to the Government’s approach and reforms, and to what is going on locally in Leeds. An up-to-date local plan, prepared through extensive public consultation, sets the framework in which decisions are taken, whether locally by the planning authority or at appeal.
I am aware of my hon. Friend’s concerns about the level of development planned for in Leeds city council’s local plan. Plan making is always challenging, as it involves difficult decisions about how an area is likely to, should and can develop in the future. Local authorities rightly have the power to make such decisions. My hon. Friend Jason McCartney said—if I remember his words correctly—that his local Labour council is just not listening. Fortunately for our democratic system, residents can do something about that when the time comes. Local plans do far more than set housing numbers; they establish areas that it is necessary to protect and set out how development will be supported by appropriate infrastructure.