Community Secretary Eric Pickles has accused Luton Borough Council of “terror tactics” in terms of housing projects.
The Conservative MP made the comment during a House of Commons debate on housing on Wednesday.
Luton South MP Gavin Shuker said Luton requires 30,000 new homes to keep up with population demand but can only build 6,000 within the borough, and he asked Mr Pickles what the town should do.
Mr Pickles said: “[Luton] should begin to talk to their neighbouring authorities, and stop trying to bully North Hertfordshire council—I have had an opportunity to meet that council—and using terror tactics and being extremely unpleasant. It is the return of Stalinist top-down planning, and the biggest threat to the green belt that the country faces.”
Mr Shuker said he welcomes proposals made by Labour Front Benchers on the right to grow, which would give local authorities powers they otherwise would not have.
He spoke during the debate of seeeing families in his constituency living “in terrible squalor” in “poor private sector rental accommodation”.
To expand Luton needs to build outside of its boundaries but Mr Shuker said that process has “ground to a halt”.
Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Hilary Benn asked the house to call on the Government to take action to tackle the housing shortage through a number of reforms including giving local authorities a new right to grow to deliver the homes their communities need.
At the end of the discussion 234 voted for the motion and 302 against.
Speaking after the debate, Luton Labour Councillor SIan Timoney said: “We really must not ignore that have absolutely no land yet desperate need for homes for families. I cannot overstate this.
“We are meeting regularly with neighbours to discuss Luton’s unmet housing need and duty to cooperate is on all councils. Local plans must reflect this or be unsound. So Pickles’ comments are unhelpful, uninformed and somewhat biased! Herts CC have blocked Stevenage housing for 20 years.”
Luton resident Peter Adams of St Mary’s Church said he was “shocked” at the language used by Mr Pickles.
He said: “To dismiss a statement of genuine concern for the housing needs of tens of thousands of Luton residents with divisive labels such as “terror tactics” and “Stalinist policies” was a score in a debate, but made no contribution to our housing crisis. If his discussions with his political allies in North Hertfordshire led him to be concerned the right response for the Secretary of State would surely be to meet with Luton Borough Council, hear their side of the story, and then mediate a solution?
“That was the policy presented by Gavin Shuker. The rational development of the town surely needs cooperation and attention to be given to schools, roads and infrastructure which must involve LBC. To perpetuate political argument rather a solution to our housing crisis belittles Mr Pickle’s office.”
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