Published: 11:00, 29 March 2014
The government’s plans for a new garden city at Ebbsfleet have been criticised by Labour’s shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn.
Mr Benn said the scheme, announced by the Chancellor last week, was smaller than what had previously been planned.
He told the Commons this week the plan was not a “triumph”, continuing: “The only trouble is that this is 5,000 fewer homes then the 20,000-home development announced for Ebbsfleet in December 2012. Only this Chancellor could proclaim a smaller development as a triumph - backwards not forwards.”
Speaking earlier in the debate, communities secretary Eric Pickles said the support for the ‘first garden city for a generation’ represented ‘decisive action and investment that Labour failed to deliver’.
He said: “We are supporting the first garden city for a generation at Ebbsfleet.
“Decisive action and investment which Labour failed to deliver. Originally announced in John Prescott’s 2003 sustainable communities plan, the Labour Party failed to build on Ebbsfleet.”
MP for Henley, John Howell, who wrote a planning green paper for the Tories, said that a ‘key element’ of the Ebbsfleet garden city must be an ‘emphasis on design’.
He said: “It is essential that it is an attractive place where people want to live.
“Design must play a key role because of the important that the project will have in the minds of other people who are thinking about having a garden city.
“We do not just want rabbit hutches and boxes to be built. All eyes will be on this city in determining whether communities are willing to participate.”
Dartford MP Gareth Johnson described the announcement as ‘pro-enterprise, bold and ambitious’.
He said: “It will create thousands of jobs in the area, help alleviate some of the housing pressures in the south-east and kick-start a faltering project.
“The possibilities are endless. I have always recognised the huge potential in the area, which, in my biased opinion, adds to what makes it the area with the most exciting prospects in the country.”
He added: “It is crucial that local people form part of the decision-making process. There must be a role for Dartford council, which has proactively tried to make the development happen in recent years.
“There must be opportunities for local people to input their thoughts and suggestions, as the concept simply will not work if the development is imposed on local residents.”