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Wednesday, 5 February, 2003, 23:32 GMT
Thousands of new homes planned
Proposed housing sites
Four sites were highlighted for the homes
The government has unveiled plans to build hundreds of thousands of new homes in south-east England, to tackle a severe shortage of affordable homes.

In a package likely to anger environmental groups, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott highlighted four proposed areas for housing development.

Prescott's plans: 2003-2031
John Prescott
London-Cambridge-M11 corridor:
Between 250,000 and 500,000 new homes
Milton Keynes:
Up to 300,000 new homes
Thames Gateway:
Up to 40,000 new homes
Up to 31,000 new homes

The government also intends to regenerate areas of need in the North and has not ruled out demolishing housing seen as surplus.

Mr Prescott made a pledge to focus development on brownfield land and to "maintain or increase" greenbelt land in every English region, by creating new green spaces in towns and cities.

Shadow housing spokesman David Davis criticised the government for appearing to want to "bulldoze the North and concrete the South".

In the South East, the new homes in Mr Prescott's "sustainable communities plan" are to be spread across the following key "growth areas".

These are the "Milton Keynes quadrangle" of Bedford, Milton Keynes, Corby and Northampton, the London-Stansted/Cambridge M11 corridor, Ashford in Kent and the "East Thames Gateway", including east London, north Kent and south Essex

Open in new window : Housing plan
How the countryside will change

Mr Prescott also told the House of Commons of proposals for regenerating inner cities and brownfield sites in the north of England.

This will include the creation of a new body - the Land Restoration Trust - to turn 1,500 hectares of derelict land in towns and cities into "urban green spaces".

Mr Prescott said he was reacting to failed policies over the past thirty years.

He said: "The result is a legacy of spiralling house prices, rising land values and a shortage of affordable homes.

"In London and the South East, more and more young people and key workers can't afford to live where they want - they are being priced out of their communities.

Housing development
Anger over new homes plans
"In other parts of the country - in the North and Midlands - the housing market has collapsed and thousands of homes face demolition."

Mr Prescott said his proposals would include 500m towards partnerships aimed at making low demand areas more desirable.

At least 1bn will be earmarked for affordable key worker housing - aimed at nurses, doctors and teachers.

Other announcements include:

  • 446m for the Thames Gateway - with new development agencies in east London and Thurrock in Essex
  • 89m towards parks and public spaces
  • 70m for community-led programmes to improve neighbourhoods
  • 41m to drive up the quality of skills and urban design
  • 50m for neighbourhood warden projects

Mr Prescott said the four "growth" areas, together with London, had the potential to deliver 300,000 more jobs and an extra 200,000 homes over the next 15-20 years.

Sprawling development

Damian Green, Conservative MP for one of the "growth" areas, Ashford, said the town already had a shortage of roads, GPs and schools.

He added: "In the real world this statement is creating dormitory towns and condemning tens of thousands of people to a lower standard of living than they currently enjoy."

The Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) said it believed the plans for the South East would smother thousands of acres of greenfield sites.

The environment simply can't take the scale of growth proposed

Julie Stainton, CPRE
"The environment simply can't take the scale of growth proposed," spokeswoman Julie Stainton told BBC News.

"It could end up producing more dismal, dormitory-type developments that sprawl over green fields."

Instead, she said, people should be encouraged to live and work outside of the South East.

But Sir Peter Hall, Professor of planning at University College London, said the problem of overcrowding was "greatly exaggerated".

Only 11% of England was developed and new building projects would only increase that to 12% in 15 years time, he said.

The BBC's Jenny Scott
"It's a very modern dilemma: economic growth versus the environment"
Duncan Kennedy reports from Thaxted, Essex
"Average house prices here are 150,000"
Tony MacNulty, Housing Minister
"Get to the grips with the difficulties in the housing market"

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27 Jan 03 | Business
18 Sep 02 | England
28 Jan 03 | England
05 Feb 03 | UK
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