I am going to speak to new clause 34, and may make some broader points, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers) did—I thank her for her great work and leadership on this issue. There are many good ideas that we have been discussing on all sides of the House today, and it is great to see such a brilliant Minister in her role and dealing with this Bill. Indeed, quite a few Ministers have been dealing with it, but I am glad that the buck has stopped with her. I welcome all and any measures to support levelling up.
The Isle of Wight is rich in so many ways, but economically is not necessarily one of them. We have a wonderful sense of community and a wonderful quality of life, but if I can achieve one thing in this place, it is to improve Islanders’ life chances and opportunities. I am delighted that in the last five years the Government have been listening more than they have done previously. We have got £120 million of additional investment. There is £48 million for the NHS—the build at St Mary’s is due to start in the next two weeks—and £26 million to rebuild the Island line. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago I was at Ryde Pier with my little hard hat on—a Boris look-alike or whatever—because the rebuild of the railway pier is now happening as well.
The hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts) asked what levelling up has done. Actually, we have got a 240-ton-lift crane in East Cowes for our shipyard, which will drive dozens of new jobs and apprenticeships in shipbuilding on the Isle of Wight. The clippers that we see going up and down the Thames are made on the Island. We have lots of great things, including in training for Isle of Wight College.
One of the many things said by the former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), which really sticks with me is that, “Talent is shared out equality in our nation, but opportunity isn’t.” We feel that, in a poorer part of a rich area.
I turn to compulsory purchase. If we go to any town or city in this country, apart from brownfield—I will come to that—we see long-term empty, derelict buildings. In coastal areas, as the Minister will know—it is fantastic that she has agreed to come to the Island and we very much look forward to hosting her—that problem is especially acute, particularly with former hotels. In Sandown, which is a town with a really lovely, wonderful community, some of our most important and valuable sites have stood empty for years. The Grand hotel is owned by a developer who seems to be unwilling to develop his own properties. The technical ownership of the Ocean hotel seems to change every month as it is flipped through a series of highly questionable companies. It is one of the most important sites in Sandown, and it is derelict and vandalised. We need the compulsory purchase powers. I respect property rights, but actually we need those powers to be as strong as possible so that communities such as mine and the Isle of Wight Council can use them to do good.
I am going to try this argument: I want to be able to get the Isle of Wight Council to compulsory purchase from the Government. Camp Hill prison site—the third prison site on the Island—has been empty for nine years. For five years I have been asking for a decision on Camp Hill. The Government cannot decide whether they want to turn it back into a prison, give us the land, sell it privately and so on. If they can give us that land at a price that we can afford, we can do real good with it, and we can build homes.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet made the point that we want to propose good stuff. That is why, among 20 amendments and new clauses that we tabled, we have proposed new clause 34. There is an incredibly trite conversation around the issue, suggesting that those who object to top-down targets and the entirely depressing reliance on out-of-town, car-dependent housing estates plonked down in the middle of nowhere are somehow anti-young people or nimbys—a nimby is a local patriot, in my opinion—shouting, “No, no, no,” with their heads in the ground like ostriches. Actually, we are saying, “Yes, yes, yes” to so many ideas—we are trying to give the Government so many ideas—because we want planning and housing to be a success. We want to protect communities and, at the same time, we recognise that we need to build, but we want a system that is community-centred, environment-centred—environmentally friendly—and regeneration-centred.
When we have acre after acre of brownfield sites in towns and cities up and down the country, what on earth is the point of being reliant on developers lazily building on greenfield sites? That alienates older people in communities—they have their dog-walking routes and views ruined—yet so often, and especially in the home counties, those houses cannot be afforded by young people. All that happens is people move out of London. That is a problem in Essex, Kent and Hampshire. On the Island, the dynamic is slightly different because people retire to us, but either way, despite having increased our population by 50% in 50 years, one of the most depressing facts is that we still export our young people too often.
New clause 34, which would give us compulsory powers to act in the public good, is only one of a series of, I hope, good ideas supported by my right hon. Friend, me and many people. For example, I think that for new clause 21, on top-down targets, we have more than 55 colleagues. Regardless of what the Labour party does, we need to work together. We want to work together with the Government in a spirit of co-operation, but can they please trust us and listen to us?
Another example of a good idea, apart from new clause 34, is the new clause on having a “Use it or lose it” rule to stop planners land-banking. I respectfully suggest to the Minister that a fundamental problem is not that planners do not give out permissions—80% get passed—or that pesky nimbys stop everything, because we know that is a load of rubbish. The fundamental problem is that developers have a vested interest in only releasing land for housing slowly, because that keeps the value of land high, house prices high, share prices high and bosses’ bonuses high. I sound a bit like I should be on the Opposition Benches. I am a big fan of capitalism, but I want capitalism to work. I want the developer industry to serve the people of this country, not its bosses.
We will achieve that by getting a system that works, so we want a new clause for “Use it or lose it.” We want a new clause that says, “Okay, you will have a time here and if you do not build out, you’re paying council tax on that 200-house estate. If you haven’t built it, you’re still paying council tax come what may.” We want bigger sticks. We want some nice carrots for brownfield, but we want bigger sticks for developers, so that when someone gets a 1,000-acre site they actually have to do something with it, and they cannot just sit on it and inflate their share price.
We want what is in the public interest. As soon as some people become Ministers, they think they know best—I am sure that this Minister does not think that—and they want top-down stuff, because that is where they drive reform. However, we know that a community with a neighbourhood plan is more likely to welcome development. Why? Because they get to shape it. All the so-called nimbys actually think, “Okay, here’s a home for my kids, a home for my daughter and son-in-law, a home for my grandkids.” They buy into it.
That is why top-down targets fundamentally do not work. They create an incredibly divisive battle. The Government say, “You have to build this many houses.” We get ridiculous, absurd numbers for the Isle of Wight, considering that our indigenous population is meant to decline by 9,000 over the next 15 years. We get targets and local government is put under pressure. The developers then start plonking down greenfield permissions, because they cannot be bothered to look at brownfield sites, which alienates communities. It becomes fundamentally divisive and adversarial.
Changing economic incentives would revolutionise development in this country, so that it becomes a win-win for communities. We could create more disincentives for greenfield sites—a super-tax—so that every plot on a greenfield site has to pay twice the amount as those on a brownfield site. Some brownfield sites are dirtier than others, but if we had a tax that said, “Okay, you are giving up 1,000 acres of greenfield site in Cambridgeshire, Kent or Hampshire, but you are getting 2,000 acres of cleaned-up brownfield site” that would be a win. That is something we could accept. We need to think in much more creative terms and to move away from an adversarial system. That is why another amendment—along with new clause 34, which we love—asks the Government to look at the creation of incentives for brownfield and greater disincentives for greenfield.
Fundamentally, with the exception of one or two things, the Government are going in the right direction, but they need to go further. Another example is the new clause on character tests. Some shoddy developers have criminal records. They intimidate people, do not treat communities properly, never build out or build poorly. Why can that not be a reason to object? Do we not want to clean up the development industry? Do we not want socially responsible developers who do the right thing for their communities and actually make an effort? They can be rewarded by us supporting their development planning applications and we can stop people who want to build caravan parks in the wrong place but use loopholes. That is another of our amendments—it is a great amendment—which would do real good, so why are the Government not accepting it?
My right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet and I, the 55 colleagues who signed new clause 21 on top-down housing targets, and many others, including the—I think—30 colleagues who signed new clause 34 on compulsory purchase, all want to say yes to this stuff. We want our communities to feel that development works for them—that it works for the old and young folks in communities, that it works to regenerate and that it works to protect our environment, which is so important to our future and which helps the whole process of community-led regeneration. In that spirit, we tabled new clause 34 and all the other wonderful amendments, which we look forward to discussing with the Government when they come up with a second date. My plea is for the Government to work with us on this issue, because want to make this a win-win, not a lose-lose.