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Kelly accused of hypocrisy over nimbyism declaration

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The new Communities Minister Ruth Kelly was yesterday accused of 'breathtaking hypocrisy' after declaring war on 'nimbyism' - while opposing the building of more than 1,000 new homes in her own constituency.

Kelly told Radio 4's Todayprogramme that she wanted to deal with householders being 'protective of their own space' and that opposition to new council house building must be 'rooted out'.

But it has emerged that the MP has helped to block a series of new housing developments in her own Bolton West constituency. They are believed to have been applications to put up at least 1,600 new homes.

Just last week she opposed the building of a new social housing development in Bolton for poor families.

Former education secretary Kelly said building more affordable social housing would be a 'personal priority' in her new job. She also indicated that she wants to change planning laws to smooth the way for new developments.

But local councillor Alan Rushton, leader of Bolton Council's Conservative group, said: 'I think her behaviour is a bit rich.

'She was representing her electorate's views, but she will have to change that point of view now. I would like to see her reaction to a similar proposal now.

'If she makes the case and says, 'I got it all wrong, I want housing everywhere now', I think she would face a few fireworks in Bolton.'

One development opposed by Kelly was the establishment of a college for Muslim students in her constituency. The college was instead built in another part of the town.

Last week Kelly lent her support to a local campaign to block proposals by a housing association for the building of eight two- and three-bedroom houses in the Deane area of Bolton.

It is also claimed that, as a constituency MP, Kelly backed residents who helped block plans for a 600-home estate in 2000, and described a developer pulling out of a 1,100 housing estate in 1999 as a 'a victory for people power'.

And, in April 2004, she backed opposition to a block of one- and two-bedroom flats in the Heaton area on the grounds it would be an 'overdevelopment'.

Shadow Secretary for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Caroline Spelman, Kelly's Conservative opposite number, said: 'This is breathtaking hypocrisy from a minister who has repeatedly opposed development in her own constituency yet is happy to steamroller people's objections elsewhere'.

But a spokeswoman for Ms Kelly today defended her position. 'The commitment to building new homes does not mean every development will simply go through as important issues like protection of the environment and regeneration of local areas must be taken into account,' the spokeswoman said.

by Ed Dorrell

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