Ripley & Heanor Column – 10th February 2017

Last week the Government introduced new plans to fix the broken housing market and build more homes across England. I especially welcome the reaffirmation of the Government’s commitment to protecting the Green Belt, as I am very clear in my views that the Green Belt of Amber Valley should not be built on.

As the development of Green Belt should only happen under exceptional circumstances, brownfield sites should be developed first and the Government has introduced new measures to ensure this happens. Planning permission on 90 per cent of suitable brownfield sites, identified on a brownfield register, should exist by 2020. To ensure this target is met the Brownfield Regeneration Fund is providing councils with £2 billion to make sure they can meet their housing needs by prioritising brownfield sites.

I welcome the provision of nearly £6.3 million to revive brownfield sites, under the flagship Housing Zones programme. Which aims to build thousands of more homes to meet demand. This is on top of the Starter Homes Land Fund which provides £1.2 billion to build 30,000 affordable ‘starter homes’ on underused brownfield land in the next 5 years.

The housing reforms set out by the Government also include new measures to ensure developers are made to deliver the homes they have planning permission for, which will help our local councils to avoid building on the Green Belt.

Many people are angry that the new sites were forward for development when thousands of houses already have permission that are not being constructed. Councils will in future have more powers to make construction start or withdraw the permission.

Greater transparency and information from developers on their pace of delivery of new housing, will enable councils to factor this into their planning processes. This will help address the serious and growing gap between the number of planning permissions granted and the number of new homes completed, ensuring the housing market works for everyone in Amber Valley.

As a member of the Public Accounts Committee I am pleased that the report for our inquiry into NHS Treatment for Overseas Patients has been published last week and taken on board by the Government. The inquiry found that Department for Health is not taking effective action to recover more of the costs of treating overseas visitors and the process is hampered by the NHS not effectively identifying chargeable patients.

To correct this the Government last week announced new regulations requiring all hospitals to check upfront whether patients are eligible for free NHS treatment. The law will change from April 2017 and this will play an important role in meeting the government’s ambition to recover up to £500 million a year from overseas visitors who are not eligible for free care.

Also last week the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill passed through parliament. I campaigned to leave the EU and so I voted to allow the Government to trigger the Article 50, not only because I believe this is in the best interests of the country and residents of Amber Valley, but also because the British people voted by an overwhelming majority in June last year to leave the EU. That is more people who voted in the referendum than at any general election since 1992 and so it is not in my opinion parliament’s place to block this decision.