General Practice: Large Housing Developments — [Peter Dowd in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:15 am on 29th March 2022.

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Photo of Cherilyn Mackrory Cherilyn Mackrory Conservative, Truro and Falmouth 10:15 am, 29th March 2022

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Dowd. I congratulate my hon. Friend Andrew Selous on securing this important debate. The provision for affordable housing and access to good healthcare are among the top issues raised with me by constituents in Truro and Falmouth in Cornwall. Those issues must be tackled in conjunction. I thank all the GPs and primary healthcare professionals in my constituency who have been working so hard over the last few years—as they always do.

I recognise people’s concern about the impact of large-scale developments on local services. That is why we must increase the provision of affordable housing while keeping in mind that for local communities to accept the new housing developments, new developments must be supported by health infrastructure. In the right place, large-scale developments can not only ease the housing crisis but act as a catalyst for reforming and tackling health issues and inequalities. We need to ensure that large developments can provide those opportunities.

Primary care delivery always requires funding, a physical site and willing providers. Those providers are GPs, which are generally private businesses and differ in their capacity. They will also differ in the demographic that they serve. Large-scale developments should be able to assist with that funding, and we must continue to ensure that local planning authorities can enforce that through mechanisms such as section 106 and the community infrastructure levy. I am pleased the Government have committed to further reform in that area, including proposals in the levelling-up White Paper for a new infrastructure levy that will enable local authorities to capture value from development much more efficiently. However, I echo the call of others that co-ordination with the Department of Health and Social Care is an utterly sensible way forward.

Developers can also provide physical sites by reserving land to deliver health services. I am pleased that developers for the controversial Langarth Garden Village in my constituency, which will eventually provide up to 10,000 new homes, are committed to doing the right thing and have secured, through the planning system and with the council’s involvement, permission to develop a new health infrastructure. I would like to thank, since he is in the Chamber, my right hon. Friend Sir Gavin Williamson for providing a new free school on the north coast of Cornwall that will, in part, deliver school places for that very controversial new estate in my constituency.

The health infrastructure plans include a new health and wellbeing centre embedded in the Langarth community, a state-of-the-art health hub to provide a one-stop shop that includes GPs and primary care treatment as well as other health facilities that have been mentioned today, such as a dentists, a pharmacy and diagnostic services to reduce pressure on existing local services. However, it is important that we remember that GPs are a private business, and as such the Government must create the right conditions to ensure they can supply and maintain that service.

In Cornwall we have a housing crisis and a health and social care crisis. We have mentioned today that solutions to the two crises come together—one absolutely affects the other. GP surgeries in Cornwall frequently report that they are short-staffed; they have offered jobs across the entire health service in Cornwall, but people cannot take the work because they cannot find housing. That applies to any kind of healthcare worker, right up to consultant level, but certainly applies to GPs and dentists. We must ensure that key workers from both the public and private sectors can buy and rent affordably in the area. I would like more key worker housing to be set aside in the Langarth development.

Key workers are vital, but they tend to earn less than the national average, have fewer assets and have more limited choices about where they can work. That means that they find it harder to get on to the property ladder or to rent decent homes close to where they need to work. It is worth mentioning that the Langarth development is very close to our hospital. I would also like to see more one-level, one-front-door properties in the development for our growing elderly population. Let us create communities where they need to be. I am pleased that the Government have already taken several steps to ensure that we meet the needs of key workers in local communities, including the 30% discount under the First Homes scheme or the assistance available under Help to Buy. However, even with those schemes in place, many key workers struggle to get on the housing ladder, and there is a huge shortage in Cornwall.

There are various options available to the Government; I will mention a few. In areas with key worker staff shortages, local authorities and housing associations should consider giving greater priority to local key workers in their respective allocations and lettings policies. In addition, the Government’s future affordable housing funding programmes should prioritise allocating grant funding to affordable housing schemes in which a significant proportion of homes are reserved for key workers. It is especially relevant to places such as Cornwall, where we are on a peninsula and cannot borrow key workers from other local authorities.

It is clear that new housing developments must be supported by the appropriate health infrastructure. Developers can help to provide funding for sites, but GPs and other health providers supply the service and we must do more to ensure that those workers can afford to buy or rent near their place of work.