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Friday, 19 June, 1998, 10:06 GMT 11:06 UK
Dome designer to head 'brown field' committee
Rogers' Millennium Dome itself will be built on 'brownfield' land
Rogers' Millennium Dome itself will be built on 'brownfield' land
Lord Richard Rogers is to be made head of a government committee to boost development in town and city on what are known as "brown field" sites.

Lord Rogers, who designed the Millennium Dome, is a high-profile Labour architect and advocate of urban renewal.

The committee will identify promising sites and work out how best to get them to a state fit for development.

The Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, is expected to confirm the appointment when he announces the results of a housebuilding review in the Commons on Monday.

He is also expected to announce that government targets for new development on brown-field sites are to rise from 50% to 60%.

This is close to the two thirds called for by the Conservatives, though less than the 75% figure advocated by the Liberal Democrats and Friends of the Earth.

Builders may get VAT incentives
Builders may get VAT incentives
Tax changes are expected to help the government meet these targets.

Those selling agricultural land for development may be penalised and VAT may no longer be charged on purchases of brown field sites.

Any such changes would have to wait for the Budget on March 17 to be implemented - and possibly later than that.

Government shifting position

Mr Prescott recently announced he wanted to move away from the "predict and provide" model for solving housing problems.

A government report predicted that 4.4 million new homes - 630,000 in London alone - would be needed by 2016 to cope with demographic changes.

Opposition and environmental groups have questioned the findings of the report, however.

An all-party group of MPs led by former Tory Cabinet Minister Tom King is keeping up the pressure on the Government to protect the countryside and is due to have a second meeting in the Commons on March 5.

More than 100 Labour MPs have now signed an a Commons motion warning of the need to protect the countryside.

Earlier, the government reacted to the move by allowing Dorset County Council to reduce its plans for new housing by 1,000 homes and endorsing a new Green Belt in County Durham, 80 times the size of Hyde Park.

Mr Prescott said: "We now have more land under green belt protection than we have ever had in our history."

More suitable land found

Planners have been accused of underestimating the amount of land in cities that can be used for new homes by up to four times.

Evidence submitted to the London Planning Advisory Council suggested that there was enough land to build 235,000 new homes in the capital up to the year 2016 rather than the 60,000 previously claimed.

A recent survey also indicated the NHS has enough spare land for 68,000 new homes.

More land has become available as heavy industries have moved out of the cities, especially around London's Docklands.

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