Housing budget to double from 1997 figures

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Affordable housing was one of the major issues addressed by the Chancellor's spending review this afternoon, with spending to be double what it was when Labour came to power in 1997.

Affordable housing was one of the major issues addressed by the Chancellor's spending review this afternoon, with spending to be double what it was when Labour came to power in 1997.

The increase in funding, to £5.9bn, was accompanied by an increase in the transport budget – which will rise from £7.7bn to £11.6bn – a 12 per cent real terms increase over three years.

Increased housing spending should encourage protestors who had been calling for such a move to combat the crisis facing the public sector employees, especially in the south-east, who are finding it increasingly difficult to buy homes near their places of work.

Fewer rented properties and a reduction in new home building rates during the last few years has fuelled the crisis, along with a rising divorce rate and greater longevity.

Areas already identified for growth include Ashford in Kent, Milton Keynes and the London-Stanstead-Cambridge area.

The Chancellor's statement is likely to be followed by a number of announcements on controversial planning and development issues scheduled before MPs begin their summer recess on July 24.

The Government's proposed planning shake up is vigorously opposed by green lobby and countryside campaign groups because they say it will give the go ahead to huge projects like motorways and airports, and local people will not have a proper chance to protest.

Tony Juniper, director designate at Friends of the Earth said "It would be a ridiculous, if typical, piece of limelight hogging for the Chancellor to give a statement on planning issues, when the Deputy Prime Minister is due to make an announcement about highly controversial changes to the planning system only a few days later.

"Allowing big business to concrete over large parts of the South East would be extremely bad news for local communities and the environment.

Mr Brown insisted that the Government was determined the cash would be spent "wisely and efficiently".

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