Homes plan as spending unveiled

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Thousands of new homes could be built and sold by the Government as ministers plan a radical intervention in the housing market.

Handing over unused publicly owned land to a Government agency with an eye to selling homes at a profit was a key part of the National Infrastructure Plan unveiled by chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander yesterday.

The Liberal Democrat said meeting the UK’s demand for 300,000 new homes a year “requires us to think radically”.

“An idea that I have been promoting is direct government commissioning of housing. Government - national or local - would take responsibility for ensuring the number of homes we need each year.

“The message to the housebuilding sector would be simple: if you don’t build them, we will.”

The latest planning document released by the Treasury in the build up to today’s Autumn Statement included details of the £15bn of road projects and £2.3bn of flood defences confirmed this week.

In Yorkshire the infrastructure plan will mean that of a previously announced £5.8bn highways fund, £490m will be made available to the region for road repairs.

There is also a promise in the infrastructure document to work with the rail industry to back its electrification in the north report due in February.

The Government has also allocated £260m of flood defence cash to Yorkshire and the Humber.

The spending on flood defences includes major investments in areas such as the Humber Estuary, where £80m will be spent, and £196m for a programme in the Thames Estuary, though the money is from previously announced funds.

George Osborne branded the infrastructure plan as a key demonstration of this commitment to the North.

The Chancellor said: “Today we take another big step towards creating a northern powerhouse. The cities of the north have incredible strengths, but on a global scale they are quite small.

“Joining them together by providing modern transport connections will allow the North’s great cities to pool their strengths. Our plan is to make travelling around the north feel like travelling around a single global city.

“That’s why as well as fixing the roads, we have invested in the railways, and are developing a new HS3 rail link across the north.”

Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew welcomed the announcements, saying “motorists and businesses in have had to deal with the consequences of underinvestment in roads in Yorkshire for too long. These new schemes will go a long way towards dealing with these problems.”

Labour though accused the Government of failing to deliver.

Chris Leslie, shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: “This Government is all talk and no action on the vital infrastructure our country needs. For all their reheated announcements, Ministers are failing to get diggers in the ground. They should be embarrassed that infrastructure output has now fallen by 11.5 per cent since May 2010.”

Other projects announced as part of the plan include a deal with Toshiba, GDF Suez and NuGen to provide a guarantee to assist the financing of a new nuclear power plant at Moorside, near Sellafield, Cumbria.

Up to £50m will be available between 2017 and 2020 to support innovation in manufacturing ultra-low emission vehicles, with £25m coming from Government.

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