John Prescott, the deputy prime minister, has announced a £22bn package as part of the Government’s drive to tackle deprivation and shortage of affordable housing.
Over the next three years, £5bn will be invested in affordable housing, including £1bn provision for key workers. £2.8bn will be allocated towards bringing council housing up to a decent standard; £500m will be used to revitalise areas of low housing demand and abandonment, especially in the North and the Midlands; and £259m to tackle homelessness.
The most controversial aspect of the scheme is the targeting of London and the four growth areas, Thames Gateway, Milton Keynes/South Midlands, Ashford in Kent and London-Stansted-Cambridge, for the building of 200,000 homes above levels in current regional planning guidance. More than £600m has been allocated for building, mainly on brownfield sites.
A report by the All Party Housing and Planning Committee has warned against the rapid building of shoddy housing. The report said: ‘We must avoid the pressure to build as many houses as cheaply as possible.’
The Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) shared this concern. Kate Parminter, CPRE’s chief executive, said: ‘As they stand, the Government’s proposals could undermine progress towards urban renaissance and sharpen the regional economic divide.’
However, Prescott said: ‘This is about creating sustainable communities not sink estates. We have a dynamic economy ‘ it is time we shared the fruits of that success with the people.’