Plans by John Prescott, the deputy prime minister, for a £22bn package to tackle deprivation and provide affordable housing (Mortgage Solutions 10 February) received a serious setback last week when a House of Commons Select Committee ruled the benefits may not outweigh the costs.
The Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Committee published a report which said: ‘Building more homes is not a panacea and the impact of such a housing programme on the environment could be unsustainable.’
It went on to say that developing the four growth areas, Ashford, Milton Keynes, Thames Gateway and the London Stansted ‘ Cambridge corridor, would not necessarily create affordable, sustainable housing if it was comprised exclusively of housing developments.
The Committee warned: ‘The importance of promoting employment might get overlooked in the rush to build a large number of homes. London is the major employment centre for many of the growth areas and the current unsustainable commuting patterns will continue unless jobs are created locally.’
It highlighted the last major house-building programme in the ‘New Towns’ which has left many areas in need of comprehensive redevelopment after just 40 years. The MPs concluded: ‘It is important the lessons of this experience are learned and the new neighbourhoods are planned in a way which will satisfy demands in the very long term.’
It suggested a more workable approach may be to distribute housing demand more evenly across a wider area encompassing some parts of the Midlands and the North which are suffering from low housing demand.