Mr. Mark Lancaster (North-East Milton Keynes) (Con):
The expansion of Milton Keynes remains one of my constituents' main concerns. I will begin with the partial review of the "South East Plan", which was published recently. Although we have known for some time that Milton Keynes is expected to absorb some 50,000 dwellings by 2026, it has come as a shock to discover that we are now expected to provide some 5,600 dwellings to the east of the M1.
For those hon. Members who do not know my constituency, the M1 forms the boundary of the city of Milton Keynes. Rural north Buckinghamshire lies to the east of the M1, and I fear that housing to the east of the M1 will be the thin end of the wedge. Interestingly, the Government always claim that they are keen to consult the local population, but when they did so - albeit briefly - last year, of the six options that were put forward, the one option that included housing to the east of the M1 was the least preferred among local residents. Yet again, the consultation was a sham, and the Government have decided not to follow the wishes of local people.
A connected issue, which I have raised in this House on many occasions, is my campaign for "i before e", or infrastructure before expansion. If Milton Keynes is to expand, it is vital that the infrastructure is in place. In recent weeks, I have raised my concern in the House that we are some £24 million short of our basic needs allocation for schools. Furthermore, the Government have told us that all our problems will be answered by the innovative Milton Keynes tariff, a system whereby £18,500 will be given towards the Milton Keynes infrastructure for every new house that is built. However, such schemes rely almost entirely on a strong housing industry. During this economic downturn, fewer houses are selling in Milton Keynes, so we are not getting the income from the tariff. In turn, it appears that many of the schemes that we hope to deliver in the next two years - such as the new multi-storey car parks in the city centre - will have to be delayed. The Government put all their eggs in one basket when it came to the delivery of the Milton Keynes infrastructure. Will the Minister consider again how we are to deliver that infrastructure, which is much needed? .........