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Labour's building plans threaten the "sink estates of tomorrow"

Conservatives have warned that the Government's latest regional house building plans risk sidelining vital environmental protection and the need for proper infrastructure.

And with large areas of England now suffering from severe flooding, Shadow Housing Minister Grant Shapps has expressed grave concern that the decision to push ahead with major development in flood-risk areas may make thousands of the projected new homes uninsurable, raising the prospect of them becoming the "sink estates of tomorrow".

Speaking in advance of a Commons statement by Housing Minister Yvette Cooper, Mr Shapps declared: "We need to build more homes, but they must stand the test of time and be homes that families will actually want to live in."

He stated: "Labour's Whitehall planning targets, imposed on local communities with the threat of financial penalties on top, threaten to increase the likelihood of flooding.

"I fear that many of these new developments may simply be uninsurable or blighted with exorbitant premiums. Labour aren't building the eco-towns of the 21st Century, they're building the sink estates of tomorrow."

Mr Shapps highlighted how in 2005, British insurers collectively agreed to continue to offer flood cover to homes and small businesses, provided the Government reduced flood risk for 100,000 homes, limited development in flood risk areas, and alleviated the risk of sewer flooding and flash-flooding.

Yet a Government-commissioned report into increasing development in the South East -over and above the 29,000 new homes every year recommended by council leaders - warns such high levels of building will have a negative effect in all sub-regions on the objective to reduce the risk of flooding; is likely to increase pressure to develop in the areas of flood risk; and will lead to increased areas of hard surface, which has the potential to increase the risk of flash flooding.

Meanwhile, Conservatives have warned that Gordon Brown's pledge to protect the Green Belt has been exposed as a sham - after a report drawn up by planning experts exposed the effect of increasing the region's building targets above the current planned rate of 29,000 new homes a year, which they said would result in green belt destruction, more flooding, intensified transport problems, and further water shortages and other environmental damage.

Seizing on the report - which was drawn up by Roger Tym and Partners at a cost of 73,000 to the taxpayer, and made known on the eve of a Government statement on plans to increase house building in the already over-crowded south east, including areas liable to flooding - Shadow Local Government and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles was scathing.

He said: "Gordon Brown's empty promise that he would protect the Green Belt has been exposed as a sham. His own government consultants are warning that Labour's building plans will lead to environmental destruction on a massive scale."

Mr Pickles declared: "We face the prospect of more flooding, transport misery, water shortages and concrete mixers covering the Green Belt. Quality of life will suffer."

And he said: "We need to build more homes. Yet Labour's policies are only going to deliver sprawling housing estates and high density tower blocks, without proper infrastructure. Gordon Brown is going to build the sink estates of the 21st Century, and local residents will be powerless to stop the unelected bureaucrats of an unelected Prime Minister."

Shapps, Grant

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