Deputy prime minister says that developers must exhaust brownfield supplies before building on greenfield land.
Deputy prime minister John Prescott has contradicted his own department's recently unveiled policy to free up housing land supply.
Under cross-examination by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's select committee this week, Prescott gave MPs reassurances that he would not abandon the sequential test, under which developers cannot build on greenfield sites until all the brownfield options have been exhausted.
"Let me give you a reassurance that the sequential test is critical and we are going to retain that policy. Developers have come to accept that it's a key to having more co-ordinated development."
"With the sequential test, we have gone from 55% of housing being built on to more than 60%, that has led to a greater prioritisation on cities."
But Prescott's statement contradicts changes to planning policy in the recently published Planning Policy Statement 3, which says that brown or greenfield sites can be built on provided that they have been earmarked for housing development in the council's five year land supply.
Planning minister Yvette Cooper defended the change of tack when she appeared at the select committee last month, arguing that it would stop authorities from using the availability of difficult to develop brownfield sites to prevent the bringing forward of greenfield plots.
Prescott also defended ODPM's performance, which was heavily criticised by the select committee last month.
But he admitted that there was ‘not enough' co-ordination with other departments. "Working to get government departments to recognise something that is not important to their department but is important for the overall objectives of the government is difficult." He said he wanted all departments to give more priority to the government's corporate goals.
And he rejected criticism by select committee member Greg Hands of policies to force developers to include affordable housing in schemes.
The Hammersmith MP criticised St George's Imperial Wharf scheme, which is located in his constituency, for segregating smaller social housing units from the larger market dwellings. "These policies are increasing social segregation."
Prescott defended the provision of on site affordable housing in big schemes like Imperial Wharf. "It's important to have mixed communities. People should not be denied from living in an area because they don't have enough money."