All 2 Selaine Saxby contributions to the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023

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Wed 8th Jun 2022
Tue 13th Dec 2022

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Selaine Saxby Excerpts
2nd reading
Wednesday 8th June 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to speak in this debate. I welcome so much of this levelling up Bill. I will address my comments to the housing issues in my beautiful constituency, which I know are reflected across rural and coastal constituencies around the country. I would also like to take this opportunity to put on the record my thanks to the Minister for letting me repeat myself time and time again, and for his constant engagement on this matter. I very much hope that, as the Bill makes its passage through the House, I might be able to persuade him to consider what, to my mind, is currently missing from it.

The peninsular of Devon and Cornwall has seen an explosion in short-term holiday lets and second home ownership, particularly since the start of the pandemic. We recognise the importance of our tourism economy, but our housing market is now simply out of balance. We just do not have homes for people to live in if they work locally. The affordability issues already spoken about by other colleagues from Devon are replicated even more so in North Devon, where we have the second fastest growing house prices in the country, with a rise of over 22% this year alone. Put simply, wages are not keeping up. Since 2016, Devon has seen 4,000 homes come out of private rent and 11,000 join the short-term holiday listings. As of today in Ilfracombe, a rural and coastal town with a population of 12,000, there is one long-term rental available on Rightmove, but if people would like to come on holiday there this June, there are 560 available options. That imbalance is simply unsustainable for us.

The demand for social housing in rural communities is growing six times faster than the rate of supply. At current rates, the backlog of low-income families needing accommodation will take 121 years to clear. We need to find other ways to enable people to build houses and for local people to move into them.

I am pleased that my Lib Dem council has finally started taking some action today, as it does have tools in its toolbox. I first wrote to it more than a year ago, so it is a delight that it is starting to tackle the issue of the derelict properties that are scattered across my constituency. However, so much more still needs to be done.

There is far too much leeway for homes to be built without meeting affordability needs, and in order to address the problem of vacant and second homes, additional planning measures are needed. Although the council tax changes are welcome, they will not be sufficient and are already incurring unintended consequences. I very much hope that a new clause can be added to the Bill to require planning permission to change homes from other tenures into short-term tenancies and holiday accommodation.

The Secretary of State spoke about creating neighbourhoods, not dormitories. We need to create communities in which people who work locally can also afford to live. At present, we are at risk of becoming just a winter ghost town.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Selaine Saxby Excerpts
Siobhan Baillie Portrait Siobhan Baillie
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I rise to address amendment 2. With 1.2 million vacancies, recruitment issues for businesses, some of the highest childcare costs in the world and a lack of choice for parents, it is right that we try to look at all forms of legislation to see if we can make improvements to childcare policies. I listened to the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy). I do not accept her criticism of the Minister and of what the Minister said. There are two separate issues. The first is whether infrastructure facilities for childcare are already included in the list that can be used for CIL and section 106 infrastructure spending. We heard from a number of Members that that is already available under DFE guidelines, and that councils can already build and spend in that way—it is a capital spend. The second issue is whether we can make changes to the regulations to include spending on revenue, effectively, so subsidising free childcare, or supporting childcare places. That needs a bit more work, but I note that the hon. Member for Walthamstow, who is not in her place, took straight to Twitter to suggest that the Government are not supportive of childcare or recognising that infrastructure matters. That is simply not the case, so I welcome the Minister providing some clarity on those issues.

More generally, the issue of housing targets, five-year land supply and the 20% buffer are constantly thrown back at my communities when we challenge building matters. Often, the Government are blamed even when it is a district council matter that is being challenged. We have an emerging local plan in Stroud. I welcome what the Minister said earlier to a colleague about the fact that we can look at a pause on a local plan. Certainly, the local council will need to do that.

I welcome the work being done in particular on compulsory purchase and derelict properties. We have a property in my patch called Tricorn House. It has been there for 20-odd years and it is a complete blight on the landscape. It was the site, sadly, of the tragic loss of a young life. The family are completely devastated and they have to look at the building every day. Nothing happens. Owners change and we are waiting. I will back any legislation that can help me to sort out Tricorn House.

It is the job of hon. Members to change and amend legislation to improve it. That does not mean we are rebels trying to take down the Government. Equally, my constituents are not nimbys because they care so deeply about their communities. They are the ones who spot when there is a great big gas pipe running through a site on which a council suddenly decides it wants to build. So let us stop the labelling, let us stop the nonsense and let us make the changes. I welcome what the Minister and her team are doing, and I thank them for it.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
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I rise to speak to new clause 119. I thank the Minister immensely for her engagement on this issue. Although she is the sixth Housing Minister I have spoken to about short-term holiday lets and second homes in my constituency, she is the first to deliver real change.

The issue in North Devon, like in many coastal communities, is acute. When I was elected to this place, Croyde was 64% second homes and short-term holiday lets. In North Devon, since the pandemic, we have lost 67% of our long-term rentals, and seen a 30% increase in property prices and a tripling of section 21 notices as people flip their long-term rentals into short-term holiday lets.

In Devon, we have worked hard to better understand what is driving some of these changes. Whereas before the pandemic we might have highlighted second homes as a particularly big issue, short-term holiday lets are now a major factor. I welcome the Minister’s changes and the caution with which they are being approached, because the unintended consequences of tinkering in this market and getting it wrong are often great.

It is not only in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities that we need changes to legislation, as the changes to landlord tax relief introduced in 2016, which came into effect in 2020, have had a monumental impact on this market. Although my work here may be nearly done, I am now lobbying other Ministers for changes to make sure we properly tackle this issue, which is multifaceted and spans many different Departments.

Anthony Mangnall Portrait Anthony Mangnall (Totnes) (Con)
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I congratulate my hon. Friend on doing a fantastic job on this issue. She has made a massive difference across the south-west. The important point is that we have to encourage long-term rental properties across the United Kingdom. We have done that by changing business rates, council tax and, now, registration.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby
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My hon. Friend and I share many similar issues.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Newton Abbot (Anne Marie Morris) for tabling the predecessor to new clauses 22 and 23. I am also one of the rebels who signed up to new clause 21. I take the opportunity to explain that I have no issue with building houses, but we have built ahead of target in my constituency, and what is the point when they are all empty and my local residents cannot move in? We need to build homes for local people so that they can live and work in the place they were born and brought up and where we have jobs for them. We have to end coastal ghost towns.

I thank the Minister again for her time. This is a big step forward.

Natalie Elphicke Portrait Mrs Natalie Elphicke (Dover) (Con)
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I rise to speak in support of new clause 12, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton South (Andrew Lewer), on small-site affordable housing.

The need for affordable housing, and indeed housing, across the country is very great. There is nothing like a cold snap and the crispness of fresh snow to bring front of mind people who are homeless on our streets, who have inadequate, cold housing or who need a home of their own. We also need to talk about the delivery of responsible and sustainable housing that is right for local areas, rather than simply stopping it. There is a group of people who do not have the voice of a property to object to a plan, and who do not have the voice of a community to call their home. We need to make sure they also have the homes they need.

On the delivery of affordable and other housing, I completely agree with the sentiment of moving away from nationally imposed housing targets and towards restoring stronger local accountability. Indeed, that is something for which I have long called, as set out in the 2015 Elphicke-House report. The standard method, otherwise known as the mutant algorithm introduced in 2018, has created an unhelpful backlash against house builders and developers without improving affordability in a meaningful statistical sense.

However, we must not throw the baby out with the bathwater, and I will look carefully at the consultation on the NPPF. I ask my right hon. and learned Friend the Housing Minister to consider what further steps may be taken to make sure our councils have greater responsibility for being housing enablers by bringing forward the housing needed in their areas.

As well as the financial, social and wellbeing costs for those who need homes, insufficient building has a very high economic cost to GDP. It is estimated that the house building industry generates over £40 billion of economic activity, including the delivery of £6.6 billion in affordable housing, while 100,000 fewer homes—that is not impossible in a sharp contraction or loss of confidence in the house building sector—could be a loss of £17 billion of economic activity and put 800,000 jobs at risk. So I ask my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister to consider accepting the sentiment behind new clause 12, and to ensure, as the Bill progresses and as the new NPPF is put forward for consultation, that the proper delivery of housing is at the forefront of her mind.