Key points from Pinchers Speech at yesterdays Westminster Hall Debate
We believe that with the right collaborative support from the ground up, not the top down, by 2050 we could see economic output in the area doubling to over £200 billion a year, with the addition of 1.1 million further jobs. I have always been at pains to express that this is not about house building; it is about economic development of a very large region for jobs, skills and the transport and other infrastructure required to build the hopes and opportunities of the people who live there. It is about housing too, but housing is not the central thrust of what we are trying to achieve….
When I hear talk from the Chamber of 1 million additional homes, points that were made in a report of some five years’ standing, I reply by saying that is not a Government target and it is not a Government policy…keep repeating the point that 1 million homes is not a Government target.
More homes are what we need and require, because in certain parts of the arc space, Cambridge being an example, average house prices are 12 times the average salary of a local resident….A number of colleagues have discussed—again, eloquently—the question of the spatial framework. We will begin a consultation on the spatial framework very, very shortly. In building our approach to that, which began in February, we have taken on board the views of local businesses, local councils and local authority leaders, who, across the political divide, have given us useful input. We want to ensure that we carry the public with us as we undertake this spatial framework vision consultation. The questions that we will ask in that consultation over the next several weeks will be high-level ones: “How do you want your space to be used?”; “What sort of environmental considerations do you have and how do you want them baked into planning?”; “What are the transport issues that you face?”; and “What are the job and the skill opportunities that you want to see for yourself and the place where you live?” The answers that people give us to those questions will feed a set of policy prescriptions that we could then take forward into another consultation, again engaging local people and involving local authorities and local leaders.
Many plans contain the equivalent where they designate ‘SANGS’ or there equivalent, and the need for a national register of sites for biodiversity net gain offsetting from which credit can be bought and registered (so they cant be traded twice) point in the same direction.
Yet planning is poorly set up legally for this. ‘Wildness’ is a land cover not a land use. Operations in pursuit of wildness are not agricultural operations and so don’t benefit from PD rights. Dig a pond for fish to swim – engineering operations requiring consent, for cattle to drink or for aquaculture, you may benefit from PD rights.
Three changes in the planning reform act forthcoming and GPDO could simply enable this. Firstly a general duty to promote biodiversity, secondly the ability to allocate land in local plans for restoration of biodiversity and/or access by the public to natural areas, thirdly to widen the definition of agricultural operation to include actions on an agricultural holding to promote either of the above.