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Grant Shapps: It's time to scrap HIPs

Speaking at Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool today, Shadow Housing Minister Grant Shapps said:

"The government says we need more homes.

I agree.

So whereas old politics meant a sterile debate between those who backed development and those who were accused of numby'ism - in the new world the question is simply 'how best to deliver new homes for our children?'

This Government thinks the answer is to command housing targets from above.

And when communities object, with genuine concerns, they simply bulldoze through the development anyway.

My constituency of Welwyn Hatfield is a perfect example. We're more than happy to create 6,000 new homes, but residents were stunned when Regional Inspectors announced a further 4,000 properties should be built.

No sustainability study, no additional infrastructure and with the local hospital under threat.

And as for Brown's pledge that he would protect the Green Belt -no prizes for guessing where all those additional properties would be built!

When we protest, the Housing Minister calls us "Shocking" Nimbys!

Someone really should have told her that even the local Labour Party supports our campaign!

Mind you, if she had looked in her own back yard, she might have noticed that six of her own Cabinet colleagues are objecting to new developments in theirs.

The truth is this government sees ordinary people as an irritant… local communities as a problem… and their grand Whitehall masterplan as the answer.

But their big stick approach is failing…

Home ownership is falling for the first time since records began.

Mortgage repossessions and the number of people living in temporary accommodation have doubled since Labour came to power.

Meanwhile over 300,000 families with children live in cramped, unhealthy conditions and half-a-million homes are over-crowded.

In 1997 the government announced that it would build 9,000 eco-homes - but they've managed just 900.

Labour said they'd help those on lower incomes and yet they've built less social housing than we did ever year under both Thatcher and Major.

And as result the number of households on waiting lists has gone up by 60% under New Labour.

This government said it would build 200,000 houses every year. But it fell well short and rather than addressing the reasons, they simply dreamt up an even bigger numbers - which they have no chance of delivering.

So when Gordon Brown grabs the headlines by raising his own targets, this time to build 3m homes by 2020 - do we believe him?

We can do better.

And today I can tell you how…

We're going to re-empower local communities to build more homes than this government can deliver.

We're going to recast the relationship between target-obsessed central government and bring power back to local people.

We'll incentivise local communities; so it's in their interest to create exciting new developments, built as a result of greater local democracy, not by crushing the very spirit of the democratic process.

And we'll start with an understanding that people have very real concerns, but that if we put the right incentives in place then they will act to improve their communities by creating more homes - for their children and their grandchildren.

And we'll engage local residents directly so they are instrumental in the 'look and feel' of their new community, and they'll decide how the planning gain should be used to benefit of all.

I pledge to you today that we'll scrap the government's flawed density targets which force people to live on top of one another and have resulted in a shortage of family homes - with all the resulting social consequences.

And I know that you share my concern over the practice of 'garden grabbing', so we'll change planning law to recognise that brownfield does not mean your neighbours garden.

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The Government wanted to streamline the home-buying process, making it less bureaucratic and fairer. So what did they do?... They forced HIPS upon us.

They didn't listen when we said that HIPS are clumsy, ineffective and useless. And they had to bypass democracy to force them through Parliament.

The experts ridiculed them, the industry doesn't want them; the market doesn't need them; and I can announce to you today that the next Conservative Government - will scrap them!

You see, we do understand and we do listen, and we know that our young people cannot afford to get onto the property ladder like their parents did - the number of first-time buyers has fallen to the lowest rate in 3 decades.

So to help the next generation get a foothold on the ladder, this week we've announced that we'll abolish Stamp Duty for first-time buyers on homes under £250,000. 9 out of 10 first-time buyers will no longer pay any Stamp Duty and will help 200,000 young people realise their dream of owning their first home.

But when it comes to home ownership, we want to extend it to more people…

So today I can also announce that we will introduce innovative schemes to reward 5 years of good tenant behaviour with an equity share in their social housing.

And we will seek to extend the Right To Buy to those in Housing Associations.

And introduce measures to get the replenishment of our housing stock moving once again.

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This Government is leaving a generation behind; they're hopes and aspirations crushed under Labour's clunking boot.

But we'll take housing future generations seriously.

Imagine if the incentives to build new homes outweighed community reservations.

Imagine if infrastructure actually led development, rather than being a casual afterthought.

Imagine if local people actually benefited from more local homes, because their sons and daughters got to live in the new houses.

And if - with a larger tax base - everyone in an area could expect lower council tax.

Imagine local politicians actually getting elected on the basis of improving services by backing new homes?

Then how many more houses could we build as a nation?

As one district vies with another to gain consent to begin popular local house-building.

Not through national building targets and a big stick, but because local people demand better services and more homes. And local councillors know that it is in their interest to deliver.

This Labour Government has failed to build houses to match its previous lower targets, yet bizarrely it now wants you to believe that they can build even more!

They can't.

We will."

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