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Thursday, 29 June, 2000, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Ban 'identikit' new homes: Hague
new homes
Mr Hague is targeting new homes on green-field sites
Developers would be banned from building "identikit houses" on green-field sites, under a major shake-up of planning laws, Conservative leader William Hague has pledged.

He promised to scrap national targets for house-building and allow councillors to decide how many new homes were needed in their area.

Let us have an end to indentikit, uniform homes and let us give discretion to local authorities to ensure architecture and materials are in keeping with our local heritage

William Hague
Mr Hague's proposals would amount to the biggest overhaul in the planning system for half a century.

House-building has proved highly controversial this year, with the government experiencing opposition from local councils for its plans to build 43,000 new homes a year in the south east of England.

Local councils would be granted a new right of "counter appeal" if government inspectors allowed a controversial building project to go ahead against the wishes of local people.

And town halls would be allowed to introduce design controls on new buildings to maintain the character of neighbourhoods and villages.

'Use inner cities'

At the Local Government Association in Bournemouth, he said: "Let us have an end to indentikit, uniform homes and let us give discretion to local authorities to ensure architecture and materials are in keeping with our local heritage."

field of sheep
Green-field sites should be protected, say Tories
Mr Hague said national house-building targets led to uniform homes being built on green-field sites instead of focusing developments on the inner cities.

"Why should resources be spent on building new schools, roads and infrastructure for these new towns on the green belt, rather than using those resources to make our inner cities places where people want to live and work?

"A truly 'joined-up' government would appreciate that protecting our rural heritage and regenerating our urban communities are part of the same challenge," he said.

'Half-baked ideas'

Mr Hague also promised to end "moves towards regional government", saying people would not identify with regional structures more than with county councils.

new house-building
Local councils "should have more say over development"
Instead, more power should be transferred to local councils, he said. And councils were not agencies of Whitehall.

"A council's strength comes from the fact that its power is local, that the people who sit on in it and work in its administration are local, that its knowledge is local and that its accountability is to local people."

He went on: "So the decision on how many houses to build should be taken by local communities, not by the secretary of state."

Housing minister Nick Raynsford branded Mr Hague's proposals to allow local councils to block new housing development as a "Nimby's charter".

"His proposals to restrict housing planning to a local - rather than regional - level is another half-baked idea with catastrophic consequences for balanced, sustainable growth and prosperity in our regions," he said.

"Their short-sighted vision would mean key workers like nurses and teachers were unable to find affordable homes in some regions, potential housing shortages restricting economic growth in others, and escalating house prices, making finding a home difficult for all but the most affluent."

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See also:

12 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Showdown looms over new houses
04 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Homes help for teachers and nurses
15 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Houses for low earners, Tories pledge
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