The Government has rebuked claims it is failing to respond to a housing supply crisis by pointing to large scale investment supporting projects such as Cranbrook in Devon.
Local Government and Communities Minister Baroness Stowell of Beeston dismissed claims from Labour that the Government should show “a bit more Attlee and a bit less apathy” and start building a new wave of garden cities.
Speaking in the House of Lords, shadow infrastructure minister Lord Adonis had hit out at the failure of ministers to publish a policy paper on new cities following a proposal made by Prime Minister David Cameron last year.
He asked Baroness Stowell at question time in the House of Lords “Do you not agree that in the face of a housing supply crisis this inaction is deplorable?
“It took the Attlee government precisely one year to enact legislation for new towns and to designate Stevenage as the first one and within five years 10 new towns had been started.
“We need a bit more Attlee and a bit less apathy.”
However, Lady Stowell told peers: “I like to think I’m an action kind of girl. That is exactly what this Government is doing.”
She said Lord Adonis’ frustration was “misdirected” as his Government had “promised five and then 10 eco towns” and none of them had got off the ground.
“What we are doing is working with local councils who have locally led proposals and we are working with them now,” she said.
“A large number of these larger sites are being unblocked and are ready to start because of our support.”
She said between 2013 and 2015 the Government was investing £474 million “to support large scale housing and commercial development in places such as Wokingham in Berkshire and Cranbrook in Devon”.
And she added: “An additional £102 million of investment is available for 2015-16 and we will publish a prospectus inviting bids for this funding in the spring.”
The first residents moved in to Cranbrook in East Devon in 2012, with at least 100 houses occupied at the beginning of this year.
The intention is to expand the final total to 6,300 homes with the first community building completed in October, known as the Younghayes Centre.
Tory former Cabinet minster John Gummer, who sits in the Lords as Lord Deben, said garden cities had originally been introduced because “our towns were unpleasant and not good places to live in”.
He added: “They now are good places to live in. Will you make sure the new houses are built in our old towns regenerating them and not built on open countryside where we need the land to grow food.”
Lady Stowell said the Government was ensuring proposals were “locally led and had local support”.