MP voices anger over housing plans

Wednesday, 27 December, 2006

A SUFFOLK MP has criticised Government plans to increase the amount of new houses to be built in the county by more than 3,000.

David Ruffley, MP for Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket, claimed the changes were 'crazy' because they did not consider the impact the extra homes may have on the county's resources.

Draft plans originally put forward by the East of England Regional Assembly suggested the eastern region needed 478,000 homes by 2021.

But the Government's revised version of the plan raised that figure to 508,000 - increasing the number of new homes to be built in Suffolk from 58,600 to 61,700. In Essex, the figure went up from 123,400 to 127,000.

But Mr Ruffley said: 'I think to have 500,000 new homes in the East of England in the next 15 years is absolutely crazy.'

He claimed the Government had no plans to properly resource schools, hospitals, roads and other essential infrastructure.

'In my constituency by 2021 we would see 10,000 new homes in St Edmundsbury and 8,000 in Mid Suffolk.

'Instead of suggesting how they will fund giving Suffolk the essential infrastructure it needs to support new housing, this Government has actually increased Suffolk's allocation in the East of England Plan by over 3,000 houses - it is beyond comprehension.

'Quite honestly they are putting the cart before the horse.'

He added: 'Until the East of England gets a clear undertaking from Government that the region will be properly resourced, as far as I'm concerned they can stuff this plan and consign it to the dustbin where it belongs.'

In November the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) warned building 500,000 new homes in the East of England would place huge pressure on the environment.

CPRE has collected more than 1,200 signatures on a petition against the plans.

The East of England Regional Assembly said any such increase should come with financial backing from the Government as the region currently has the lowest level of public spending per head of the population in the country.

But a spokeswoman for the Government said over the last 30 years demand for new homes had increased by 30%.

'With regards to funding, the scale of development required will require substantial investment in transport and the full range of social infrastructure,' she added.

'Funding will come from a range of sources, the large majority from the private sector.

'The Government has already made substantial commitment through such sources as Growth Areas Funding, the Transport Innovations Fund, and the Regional Funding Allocation, which was very positive in its outcomes for the East of England in terms of the investment in housing and transport.'