Pickles denies knowledge of report

Eric Pickles has denied sitting on a report proposing two new garden cities near London - but said the Government could green light new towns in places where people want them.

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Eric Pickles says the report did not come from his department

The Communities Secretary insisted his department had not been responsible for drawing up a document, which has been reported as proposing new settlements at Yalding, Kent and Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire.

Mr Pickles said Labour had built resentment rather than homes by repeatedly promising new garden cities without consulting people who already live in an area.

Addressing questions about the reports on the Sky News Murnaghan programme, he said: " Let me be absolutely clear: I have not seen, formally or informally... this report does not come from my department. We tend to be the experts in planning and housing so we would expect some degree of involvement.

"I don't rule out an ambitious civil servant from another department putting something together but both parties stood on a manifesto saying we would not force eco-towns or garden cities on the population."

Mr Pickles said land was being released by the coalition through the local infrastructure plan for housing and that plots for 100,000 homes would be available before the next election.

And he added: "It is important to set up settlements where there is going to be some infrastructure there, where there is going to be roads and the like. I think we could probably produce garden settlements, we could produce a garden city or two - provided it is in places where people want it and there are authorities expressing an interest.

"But it has to be on the basis of consent. After all, Labour promised five garden cities and produced none and when that failed to arrive they promised 10. All that happened with that policy was building resentment, not a single dwelling."

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: "We cannot make the mistakes of past governments and sit on our hands while a whole generation of people are squeezed out of the housing market. It is our duty to change the story.

"We must bring decades of indecision and stagnant political will to an end.

"That is why I am a strong advocate of garden cities, where there is clear local support and private sector appetite. In 2011, our housing strategy committed us to publishing a prospectus for new garden cities and that is exactly what we'll do."