Homes plan will 'chew up greenfield land'

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John Prescott was accused of chewing up "vast swaths of greenfield land" yesterday as he brought forward plans to build more than a million new homes in the South-east.

John Prescott was accused of chewing up "vast swaths of greenfield land" yesterday as he brought forward plans to build more than a million new homes in the South-east.

The Deputy Prime Minister has already named four areas around the capital where 200,000 houses will be developed over the next 12 years. But extra money in Gordon Brown's spending review will now enable construction of the homes to be accelerated by the Government.

Mr Prescott told MPs that an extra £200m would be spent on building transport links to Milton Keynes, Stansted in Essex, Ashford in Kent and the Thames Gateway corridor to the east of London.

The budget for preparing the Milton Keynes, Stansted and Ashford sites for construction will be doubled from £66m to at least £130m. Overall, the Government has set itself a target of building 1.1 million extra homes in London and the South-east by 2016.

Bernard Jenkin, the Tory spokesman for the regions, said the plans would "chew up vast swaths" of greenfield land. "By concentrating the building on the South-east, it will widen the gap between North and South," he added.

Mr Prescott told the Commons that spending on housing would rise in real terms by an average of 4.1 per cent annually, with his department's budget reaching £8.4bn by 2007-08.

As well as speeding up plans for the South-east, the extra cash will pay for a doubling in spending on "affordable" houses and on building more than 40,000 homes for public sector workers.

In an effort to reduce homelessness, an extra 10,000 "social rented homes" -- the successor to council houses - will be built per year by 2008 and Mr Prescott said he would press for an increase in the numbers.

Funding for a scheme regenerating areas where the property market is depressed is to be trebled from £150m a year to £450m. The scheme will cover parts of Manchester and Salford, Merseyside, Oldham/Rochdale, east Lancashire, north Staffordshire, Birmingham/Sandwell, South Yorkshire, Newcastle/ Gateshead and Hull and the East Riding of Yorkshire.

Mr Prescott also said local councils would provide an extra £7.2bn in grants by 2008, an annual growth rate of 2.7 per cent. The Tories predicted that council tax would rise by 7 per cent for each of the next three years - three times the rate of inflation.

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