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Last Updated: Monday, 1 October 2007, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
In full: Shapps speech on housing
Here is the full text of shadow housing minister Grant Shapps' speech to the 2007 Conservative Party conference:

The government says we need more homes.

I agree.

But, this Government thinks the answer is to command housing targets from above.

And when communities object, with genuine concerns, they simply bulldoze the development through anyway.

My constituency of Welwyn Hatfield is a perfect example.

We're more than happy to create 6,000 new homes, but residents were stunned when the Government announced a further 4,000 properties should be built.

No sustainability study, no additional infrastructure and with the local hospital under threat.

And as for Brown's pledge that he would protect the Green Belt - no prizes for guessing where all those additional properties would be built.

When we protest, the Housing Minister calls us "Shocking" Nimbys.

Someone really should have told her that even the local Labour Party supports our campaign! Mind you, if she had looked in her own back yard, she might have noticed that six of her own Cabinet colleagues are objecting to new developments in theirs.

The truth is this government sees ordinary people as an irritant? local communities as a problem? and their grand Whitehall masterplan as the solution.

But their big stick approach is failing? Home ownership is falling for the first time since records began.

Mortgage repossessions and the number of people living in temporary accommodation have doubled since Labour came to power.

Meanwhile over 300,000 families with children live in cramped, unhealthy conditions and half-a-million homes are over-crowded.

The government announced that it would build 9,000 eco-homes - but they've managed just 900.

Labour said they'd help those on lower incomes and yet they've built less social housing than we did ever year under both John Major and Margaret Thatcher.

And as result the number of households on waiting lists has gone up by 60% under New Labour.

This government said it would build 200,000 houses every year.

They fell well short but have now simply dreamt up an even bigger number - which they have no chance of delivering.

So when Gordon Brown grabs the headlines by raising his own targets, this time to build 3m homes by 2020 - do you believe him? We can do better.

And today I can tell you how? We're going to recast the relationship between target-obsessed central government and bring power back to local people.

We'll incentivise local communities; so it's in their interest to create exciting new developments, built as a result of greater local democracy, not by crushing the very spirit of the democratic process.

And we'll start with an understanding that while people have very real concerns, with the right incentives they will act to improve their communities by creating more homes.

And we'll engage local residents so they are instrumental in the 'look and feel' of their new community, and they'll decide how areas will benefit from development.

I pledge to you today that we'll scrap the government's flawed density targets which force people to live on top of one another, creating the shortage of family homes - with all the resulting social consequences.

And I know that you share my concern over the practice of 'garden grabbing', so we'll change planning rules to recognise that brownfield does not mean your neighbours garden.

You know, this Government wanted to streamline the home-buying process, making it less bureaucratic and fairer.

So what did they do?.

They forced Home Information Packs upon us.

They didn't listen when we said that HIPS are clumsy, ineffective and useless.

And they had to bypass parliamentary scrutiny to force them through.

The experts ridiculed them, the industry doesn't want them; the market doesn't need them; and I can announce to you today that the next Conservative Government - will scrap them.

You see, we do understand and we do listen, and we know that our young people now cannot afford to get onto the property ladder - the number of first-time buyers has fallen to the lowest rate in 3 decades.

So to help the next generation get a foothold on the ladder, this week we've announced that we'll abolish Stamp Duty for first-time buyers on homes under 250,000.

9 out of 10 first-time buyers would no longer pay any Stamp Duty and we will be helping 200,000 young people realise their dream of owning their first home.

And we want to extend home ownership to more people? So today I can also announce that we will introduce new schemes to reward 5 years of good tenant behaviour with an equity share in their social housing.

This Government is leaving a generation behind; their hopes and aspirations crushed under Labour's clunking boot.

It doesn't have to be that way.

Imagine if the incentives to build new homes outweighed community reservations.

Imagine if infrastructure actually led development, rather than being a casual afterthought.

Imagine if local people actually benefited from more local houses, because their sons and daughters could live in the new homes.

Imagine local politicians actually getting elected on the basis of improving services by backing new homes? Giving people more opportunity and power over their lives.

With one district vying with another to gain consent to begin popular local house-building.

How many more homes could we build as a nation? Not through national building targets and a big stick, but because local people demand better services and more homes.

And local councillors know that it is in their interest to deliver.

This Labour Government has failed to build houses to match its previous lower targets, yet bizarrely it now wants you to believe that they can build even more.

They can't.

We will.


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