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EDITIONS
Thursday, 18 July, 2002, 17:27 GMT 18:27 UK
Prescott unveils 1bn housing plan
Houses for sale
There is a shortage of property in the South-East
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has set out details of a huge expansion in house building in the south-east of England.

Key proposals
Get tough with councils that fail to meet housing targets
Boost subsidies for key worker housing
Promote four growth zones in South-East
The plans could lead to 200,000 new homes being built in the region over the next five to 10 years, with thousands of subsidised properties for key workers such as nurses and teachers.

But Mr Prescott has abandoned plans to reduce local people's input into big infrastructure projects such as Heathrow terminal 5.

The deputy prime minister also outlined plans to revive run-down communities in Yorkshire and Lancashire.

The Conservatives attacked the proposals as "Stalinist" central planning, which failed to address the underlying causes of the housing crisis.

Under Mr Prescott's proposals, local councils will be forced to meet targets for building new houses and the planning process will be streamlined to encourage development by cutting out the input of county councils.

Developers will also be encouraged to build on brownfield sites in an effort to protect the countryside.

Growing crisis

Mr Prescott has been given an extra 1.4bn to spend on the plans.

The detailed breakdown of the cash has yet to be decided but the vast majority is expected to be spent in the South-East.

Unveiling his plan in the House of Commons, Mr Prescott said successive governments had failed to address the growing crisis in housing.

The deputy prime minister said he was increasing funding for affordable housing for key public sector workers, which currently stands at 1.2bn a year.

Housing density

He also announced a raft of measures aimed at encouraging new development.

These include:

  • Establishing a register of surplus brownfield land held by government and public bodies
  • Intervening in planning applications for housing that involve a density of less than 30 dwellings per hectare to reduce land take
  • Introducing Business Planning Zones to promote growth, jobs and productivity

Most of the new homes will be built in four areas: the Thames Gateway; Ashford; the Milton Keynes area and the London-Stansted-Cambridge area.

But Mr Prescott also announced three new Millennium Communities in East Ketley (near Telford in Shropshire) Milton Keynes and Hastings.

He unveiled plans to clamp down on unscrupulous landlords and create a single housing inspectorate to drive up standards.

There will also be more help for the homeless and families in bed and breakfast accommodation.

Mr Prescott told MPs: "We have simply not done enough over the years.

"We need more homes where people want to live, near to where they want to live, near where they work, in the North and South, at prices people can afford and in a way that protects our countryside."

'Concreting over'

But the plans have been attacked by environmental campaigners who have accused Mr Prescott of attempting to destroy greenbelts.


It is important that nurses see this implemented quickly to combat nurse shortages in this area

Royal College of Nursing
While shadow environment and rural affairs spokesman Eric Pickles said Mr Prescott's proposals were a "tribute to central planning".

Comparing the deputy prime minister to Stalin, Mr Pickles attacked his "half thought-through attempt" to solve the housing crisis.

He said the plans would concrete over the "green fields of Kent and Essex".

But it would do nothing to address the "flight from the inner cities", where crime and bad schools were rife.

He said it was "money thrown at the problem without thought".

Property prices in London and the Home Counties went up by 20% in the past year.

According to the Halifax bank the average London property costs nearly seven times the average salary for a London teacher.

'Not ideal'

The Royal College of Nursing welcomed Mr Prescott's proposals.

"It is important that nurses see this implemented quickly to combat nurse shortages in this area," a spokeswoman said.

But she said the four areas identified by Mr Prescott for development "may not be ideal as it will add to costs for nurses, in terms of commuting time and fares."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jenny Scott
"Britain is bursting at the seams"
The BBC's Denise Mahoney
"It's a house-building scheme on a scale not seen since the end of World War II"
The BBC's Catherine Marston:
"An estimated 60,000 homes in east Lanacashire are in urgent need of repair"
 VOTE RESULTS
Should new homes be built on the greenbelt?

Yes
 23.89% 

No
 76.11% 

3390 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion


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