Pressures from immigration have link to housing concerns, says minister

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The housing minister has highlighted pressures from immigration as he said the Government hears communities’ concerns over new developments.

Brexiteer Dominic Raab added the Government would have “broader scope and broader control” in the area once Britain leaves the European Union.

His comments came in a debate on housing, planning and the greenbelt, where Tory former planning minister Nick Boles said a combination of “cowardice, complacency, laziness and incomprehension” lied at the heart of the housing crisis.

Mr Raab said communities asked questions where people worried about new developments.

“People ask reasonable questions. What will it mean for congestion on the roads, what will it mean for local pressures on schools or local NHS services,” he said.

Dominic Raab
Housing minister Dominic Raab (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“But for the point of this debate I wanted to just make clear that the Government hears those concerns loud and clearly, and that is what the Homes Infrastructure Fund helps to address.”

The Homes Infrastructure Fund last week awarded £866 million to local authorities, which the Government said would help unlock the delivery of up to 200,000 new homes.

Earlier in the debate Mr Boles urged the Government to follow the lead of France and Germany by intervening in the housing market.

He said: “The truth is that for 20 years, governments of all parties, politicians of all stripes have failed to build enough new homes to meet the housing needs of our fellow citizens.

“We have done that even though we in this House, almost every single one of us, know that very happy feeling of living in our own home, a home that we own.”

Nick Boles
Nick Boles (PA)

The Grantham and Stamford MP prefaced his comments by telling ministers he had been inspired to speak “clearly and openly” about the “mistakes we have made” since beating cancer.

He added: “We need to revert to the situation that led to Milton Keynes and the other new towns where we were able to acquire the land at a reasonable price, a small multiple of its agricultural land value and then use the uplift in that land value to fund the infrastructure the community needs.

“The second thing we need to do is we need to intervene with major house builders to ensure that they build at the sites with planning permission, on the schedule that they agreed with the planning authority.”

Mr Raab said the Government would publish a revised draft of the national planning policy framework and launch a consultation on it by Easter.

He also said new homes should be built “as soon as possible once planning permission is granted”, with a review underway on how to close the gap between planning permissions being granted and the number of homes being built.

“We want to see what more can be done to make sure developers cannot wriggle out of commitments to build more affordable homes in the right places after planning permission is granted,” added Mr Raab.

Conservative MP Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury), who led the backbench debate, said he was “very concerned” at the belief “that supply is the sole answer to this so-called housing crisis”.

He said that while he recognised there were problems with the housing market, to reduce it to an issue of supply was an “oversimplification”.

“I believe there are several factors at play and I would argue that the issue isn’t the availability of housing as such but affordability,” he told MPs.

Tory former cabinet minister Theresa Villiers said in a densely populated island the greenbelt “enriches our lives in many ways”, while fellow Tory William Wragg (Hazel Grove) argued the greenbelt should be safeguarded and previously developed urban land should be prioritised for housing instead.

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