Regeneration minister Lord Rooker has failed to win the backing of regional authorities in the East of England for government growth plans
At an emergency meeting last week the Conservative and Liberal Democrat-dominated East of England Regional Assembly stuck to its pre-Christmas decision to refuse to endorse the housing growth targets drawn up by its own officials. The meeting was to discuss feedback from the three-month consultation into the regional spatial strategy, which has just ended.
John Reynolds, chairman of the assembly’s planning panel, said the assembly had not been swayed by a letter from Rooker outlining how the government was putting money into the region to support the development of the Thames Gateway, M11 corridor and south Midlands growth areas.
In his letter, Rooker pointed to the investment for transport projects in the region’s growth areas that was announced in last week’s £235m Community Infrastructure Fund.
Rooker said this funding, combined with extra money for affordable housing, education and health, represented “significant progress and a sign of our commitment to delivering sustainable communities in the east of England”.
But Reynolds argued that the money on offer did not go far enough. He said: “We are only receiving 25% of what we need.” He said that the government needed to put in place longer-term funding mechanisms for infrastructure.
Roger Humber, the housebuilders’ representative on the assembly, described the emergency meeting as a “political stunt” mounted by the Conservatives to highlight their opposition to government housebuilding plans in the run-up to the general election.
The Community Infrastructure Fund, announced in the wake of last week’s Budget, pledges funding for road and rail upgrade projects linked to housing sites in the growth areas. They include £14m to enable work to start on upgrading the bottleneck at junction 14 of the M1 at Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, which is preventing the development of thousands of homes in the town.
The announcement of the Community Infrastructure Fund money was timed to coincide with the publication of the Milton Keynes and south Midlands growth area strategy. This sets a target of 169,800 homes to be developed in the sub-region between now and 2021, and 101,000 dwellings in the following decade.