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My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I will move on to that point later in my speech. I too have a number of villages in my constituency that are affected by speculative house building. The important point, which I hope is the message that will come out from this debate, is that we need more houses, but we need them in the right place and we need to have local community consent in order to ensure that they are built.
The east midlands benefits from its strategic location, its workforce, its skills base, its good strategic connectivity, its strong supply chains and its reputation. It is an area that gets on with it. It is one of those quiet, industrious and energetic motors of the wider United Kingdom economy. Unemployment is lower than the national average and employment is higher. We are privileged to be the home of great cities such as Derby, Leicester, Lincoln, Northampton and Nottingham. We have East Midlands Airport and, in my own county, world-leading manufacturers such as Toyota, Bombardier and Rolls-Royce.
Over the past 30 years, my constituency has transformed itself into a manufacturing, logistics and service centre. As somebody who comes from the area, I am hugely proud of that. We are propelled by small and medium-sized business, the aspiration to do well and the desire to succeed and take advantage of the opportunities before us. For example, the Worcester Bosch factory is home to 300 workers in Clay Cross, the second-largest town in North East Derbyshire. The factory has been in our area for many decades. A few years ago it had only 100 employees but, following investment, support and increased market demand, it now has 300 workers and the number of oil-fired boilers coming off its production line has increased from 30,000 to 50,000 a year. The factory is a market leader and is showing the drive, ability and verve that is the hallmark of the east midlands. We are a “get on with it” constituency in a “can do” region, supporting a growth-driven and aspirational country.
We are also making significant strides on housing. Last year almost 15,000 new properties were built in the east midlands. After the south-west, that was the highest number of completions in the UK on a proportionate basis, based on the existing number of households in our area. That is more than the north-east and the north-west, and—for a proud region with the usual healthy competition, I hope my hon. Friend Andrea Jenkyns will not mind my saying—more than our friends across the border in Yorkshire and the Humber. However, if we are to meet the Government’s laudable objective of increasing the supply of homes, and therefore increasing the proportion of our constituents who have the opportunity to buy a home, we need to continue to assess and debate the challenges that prevent that from happening. That is the purpose of this debate.
Housing is a controversial topic on the doorsteps of Eckington, Killamarsh, Dronfield, Clay Cross and all the other towns and villages in my part of the world. Most of the residents I speak to recognise and support the Government’s objective of building more houses and their recognition of the importance of ensuring that the next generation can aspire to own their own home and have the same opportunities afforded to them. Many residents have personal experiences of sons or daughters who cannot get on the housing ladder, or perhaps they themselves are years away from doing so. Some of that is solved laterally, by being willing to move a few miles further out than would be ideal, by being willing to wait longer, or by the famous bank of mum and dad—I have to admit that I benefited from that in a small way when I bought my first property a few years ago. The desire to own is real and it continues to burn bright, irrespective of age or the place in which we live. Yet there is also real frustration about the way the house building process works and how the planning process manifests itself in the localities.