Chippenham Community Voice

A positive future for our town and villages

Parliamentary Questions

Questions on Green Spaces April 4th, 2011

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): What steps his Department is taking to protect green spaces from development. [50351]

The Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Greg Clark): The coalition Government have moved fast to enable communities to protect their green spaces. Three measures stand out. The first is the end to the perverse classification of gardens as brownfield land, which has led to the destructive practice of garden grabbing. The second is the abolition of density targets so that developers have greater freedom to provide homes with gardens. The third is the introduction of neighbourhood plans, which will allow local people to safeguard green spaces and incorporate them into their vision of their community.

Mr Sheerman: Can the Minister therefore explain to me what on earth the Chancellor of the Exchequer was talking about in his Budget speech? One of the most important parts of the speech was on how he would free up the country to developers. Most people in Huddersfield now know that their green spaces-not green belt, but green spaces-are vulnerable to being built on.

Greg Clark: Of course, they are not. At the moment, the regional strategies place a threat over communities, as the hon. Gentleman knows. He is a great localist, and he and I agree on this. I commend his blog to those on the Opposition Front Bench, who are chuntering away. There is a very persuasive piece on this matter under the title, "The party I love is a party of ideals. That's why I back David Miliband". It states:

    "I've always wanted to be in a party rooted in our diverse communities...nourished and reinvigorated by the ideas and aspirations that stem from our grass roots."

We are giving the grass roots the right to determine the future of their green spaces, something for which I welcome his support.

Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): Rural buffer zones and other planning designations protect areas such as my constituency from the westward expansion of Swindon. Does the Minister agree that, leaving aside the green belt, we have all kinds of ways in which to protect our countryside from excessive building?

Greg Clark: My hon. Friend is right that development must be sustainable and must not compromise the ability of future generations to enjoy the environment that we have. The Government's policy has always been clear in that regard.



Questions on Housing (North Wiltshire) February 28th, 2011

Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): What criteria are used to determine the number of houses which should be built in North Wiltshire constituency? [42494]

The Minister for Housing and Local Government (Grant Shapps): Local authorities and communities should plan for sustainable development in their area, taking a visionary and strategic approach to be responsive to the market using robust evidence of the number of homes required.

Mr Gray: Across England, developers seem to be taking advantage of what they believe to be a policy vacuum to press ahead with large-scale planning applications. In my area for example, there are applications for 5,000 homes around Chippenham, the whole of Swindon seems to be moving westward to engulf some of the villages there, and there are applications for 280 homes in Malmesbury. Does the Minister agree that local people should decide how many houses they want and where they should be, taking account of homelessness and all that of course, but looking in areas such as mine at preserving the green belt, the countryside and our way of life?

Grant Shapps: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, of course: taking account of the housing needs survey so that homelessness and affordable housing are addressed, the numbers should be set through a process of local decision making. The days of top-down targets, which led to the lowest rate of house building since 1923, are over. That is official, because I can tell Opposition Members that just a couple of days ago the National House-Building Council announced that there had been an 18% jump in the number of home starts-the applications to start building homes. Bottom-up is starting to work.

Duncan Hames (Chippenham) (LD): My constituents have a keen interest in house building in the North Wiltshire constituency. The Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), referred to "incremental" growth, which would certainly be more welcome to them than the urban extensions we have experienced in years past. Will the Minister confirm that decisions on house building should be based on meeting local housing need rather than catering for population movements from elsewhere in the country?

Grant Shapps: The idea that Ministers can sit in Whitehall and somehow dictate these tractor-like targets on five and 10-year plans has finally ended, I am pleased to say. My hon. Friend will be relieved to know that deciding where housing should go will now be an entirely local decision, prompted by the new homes bonus and other mechanisms.

Above extracts all from Hansard