DEPUTY Prime Minister Nick Clegg has praised Milton Keynes in a speech calling for a new generation of Garden Cities to boost the British economy.
The Liberal Democrat leader told the National House-Building Council the Government will be intervening to unblock a number of major housing projects that have hit a wall.
They include the Fairfield housing development to the west of Milton Keynes.
Mr Clegg spoke about Milton Keynes as an example of what can be done.
“Stevenage, Peterborough, Milton Keynes – these places didn’t spring up of their own accord,” he said.
“People got together and made them happen: through imagination; ambition; leadership. Not every New Town was been perfectly designed – but the fact is, people like living in these places. More people now commute into Milton Keynes than out of it: it’s economically independent and still growing strong. It’s time to learn from the success stories and replicate them once more.”
Mr Clegg said that 100,000 fewer houses are being built than are needed each year; a problem he said was exacerabated – but not caused – by the financial crises.
He said: “Unless we take radical action we will see more and more small communities wither, our big cities will become ever more congested as we continue to pile on top of each other and the lack of supply will push prices and rents so high that – unless you or your parents are very rich – for so many young people living in your dream home is going to be a pipe dream.”
He added that there haven’t been any single new developments of more than 13,500 homes in Britain since the 1970s – something he said needs to change.
“I can announce that the Coalition has identified major housing projects that have hit a wall – and we are intervening directly to unblock them,” Mr Clegg said.
“We are working with a number of large locally-led schemes, ranging from 4,000 to 9,500 units in size which, in total will deliver up to 48,600 new homes.
“The sites have been held up for various reasons: cash-flow problems following the banking crash; bureaucracy and licensing issues, a lack of upfront investment for infrastructure. Some for up to ten years. And while all of them have strong local supporters, their communities are, understandably, becoming frustrated by these delays.
“So we will unlock the barriers to investment. We will make sure that bureaucracy does not hold back these developments: bringing partners together to get action on the ground. And, where investment is required, I can announce new funding. We will provide £225m of government money which will also leverage private investment to effectively de-risk these or similar projects and get them moving.”
As well as Fairfield, developments in Northstowe, Cambridgeshire; East Kettering; and Cranbrook in Exeter are set to benefit.
Mr Clegg said: “It’s time to rediscover that proud tradition of creating new places.
“We can either condemn ourselves to haphazard urban sprawl – the surest way to damage the countryside, we can cram ever more people into existing settlements, concreting over gardens and parks – and bear in mind we already build the smallest homes in Western Europe, or we can build places people want to live.”
He concluded with a rallying call for people to ‘think big’: “So I urge the people in this room to help make this a success. Garden Cities and Suburbs for the 21st Century. We can rise to this challenges, but only if we see the opportunity too.
“This isn’t just about bricks and mortar, it’s about giving British families the homes they need, giving children new communities to grow up in, creating places that will grow and thrive and become part of the fabric of this great country.
“This is the moment to revive the ambition of those who came before us, in order to create a better future for those who will follow us. In keeping with our great British traditions: it’s time to think big.”