Housing and Planning — [Sir Charles Walker in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:45 pm on 3rd March 2020.

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Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 3:45 pm, 3rd March 2020

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. I do not know the specific case, but we need to ensure that the codes that we use, and those that the Planning Inspectorate uses, are fit for purpose, to ensure that when a good plan is introduced, for a site that has appropriate permissions, those developments are built.

Plans that are needed in an area, supported by the right infrastructure, help to ensure that what is planned for is sustainable rather than the result of speculative applications. That also ensures that we build in greater community support. So far, 90% of councils have an adopted local plan compared with just 17% in 2010. Some are a little long in the tooth, but I am pleased that the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough adopted local plans for both his authorities in 2019, so those plans are nearly brand new.

I assure Helen Hayes that the Government are committed to reviewing permitted development rights for the conversion of buildings to residential use, particularly respecting the quality and standards of those buildings. The review will report, and I will ensure that the report is available to her in due course.

It is also crucial that local authorities plan for the right number of homes. That is why, in July 2018, we introduced a new standard method to assess the minimum number of homes that an area needs. It does not set a target; it is simply a starting point from which authorities consider any constraints, and see whether need is more appropriately met in neighbouring areas. Following the latest household projections, the standard method was changed to ensure that it was consistent with delivering the homes that the country needs. We are reviewing the method and will consult on longer-term options in due course, because we recognise that we need to diversify the products on the market in order to drive up supply.

I will say a few words on small and medium-sized enterprises before I let my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough wind up. We are supporting SME housebuilders with a package of measures to help the sector to grow and develop, including the home building fund, the housing growth and housing delivery fund, the ENABLE Build guarantee scheme, and our ongoing reforms to the planning system, more of which he will hear about in due course. We believe that SMEs have a key part to play by increasing their output, as the biggest home builders in our country will not meet the Government’s housing building target alone. SMEs are well placed to help to deliver new homes, welcomed in their communities rather than resisted, and those homes will be built to last. Not only do we need to supply more homes, we need to make the dream of home ownership, as the hon. Member for Stockton North called it, a reality.

I hope that Members can see that the Government are truly committed to addressing the problems raised in the debate. We know that we need to build more of the right homes, of the right quality and in the right places, so that the housing market works for all parts of our community. We are determined to do that, and I invite all hon. and right hon. Members to step up to the plate and help us to tackle that challenge.