Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Government must consider health and related issues in planning policy

Last week I spoke up about poor quality developments being the only viable option in low demand or run down areas.

That these poor developments are because of a Brownfield first policy. Where those with priviliged access to green belt want to stop any development on virguin turf. Where a subsequent shortage of housing land forces up Brownfield land values and release of old mills for housing in areas where often private landlords and boarded up properties proliferate.

My point was clear. The Government must consider health and related issues in planning policy. Open space, recreation and self sustaining, thriving communities. No-one will build such a society with these brownfield sites in low demand areas such as Peel.

Following my speech I receieved a very kind personal hand written note from Labour's new Shadow DCLG Secretary of State, Hilary Benn. This was followed by a supportive amendement tavled by the Labour front bench which the Tories defeated last night calling for sustainability using various criteria whould be the basis for any planning applications.

Sadly time ran out and I was not able to deliver a follow up speech which is here.

Amendment no. 370 refering to sustainability.

Mr Deputy Speaker,

I wish to make some comments regarding sustainability and the Bill’s relationship with the National Policy Planning Framework.

I must speak in favour of the amendment to amendment 370, which would give a widened definition of ‘development’, taking into account the social and environmental needs, as well as the requirement to ensure a strong and HEALTY society.

Mr Deputy Speaker, the National Policy Planning Framework is attempt to bludgeon the UK’s housing problem with a solution which may be appropriate to the south of England, but which ignores those problems specific to many northern industrial towns, such as my constituency of Hyndburn.

As I have mentioned in this house before, Mr Deputy Speaker, my constituency has 2500 empty homes. The NPPF in this regard, offers a somewhat irrelevant definition of sustainability. These properties must be part of any housing consideration and the National Planning Policy Framework must include a presumption, I would argue a first preference, that these are brought back into use.

Brownfield and Greenfield must be secondary. But the Planning Framework does not take this into account. Because it is arbitrary and lacks nuance.

As a result of the fact that it takes a blanket view on sustainable development, unmanaged sustainable development will not abate the oversupply of housing in my constituency but exacerbate the problem...

Mr Deputy Speaker, this problem shows a lack of joined up thinking from the government. A policy which will exacerbate the problem of housing oversupply has ramifications for other aspects of community life. Namely regarding health and wellbeing.

Mr Deputy Speaker, the Prime Minister has on more than one occasion touted his support for a ‘happiness index’.

If the government is serious about putting forth an agenda of improving the health AND WELLBEING of our people, then it must resist the further crowding of densely populated urban areas by Brownfield developmental pressure.

A free for all ... urban infill ....... based on gross housing need will simply not work for my constituency

Mr Deputy Speaker, if sustainable is to mean anything of value, it must take all aspects of community life into account.