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Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (Amendment) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:47 pm on 29th January 2010.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change 1:47 pm, 29th January 2010

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I am very fortunate in that, for the second time in my political life-although the first came only a couple of years ago-I have managed to be successful in the ballot. I am grateful to have the opportunity to present the Bill to the House. I am grateful that the Minister is in his place and I hope that I can say things that can command general support. This is not intended to be a matter of party political division, but it is a matter that concerns us all greatly. It is about how we release more money to improve housing and for social housing in all parts of England where the need is significant. I am grateful to my 11 hon. Friends who have shown their support for the Bill and who sponsor it with me.

This is a simple Bill that seeks to amend the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which contains a section, often referred to in local government circles-section 106. That is the section under which, when a developer applies to a local council for permission to carry out a development, there is a negotiated payment by the developer to the local council that is meant to compensate for the disruption and to pay for the changes that were necessary to the infrastructure as a result of the development.

One problem with that legislation has been that it has been a bit vague. That is one reason why the Government have started to look for an alternative. In the Planning Act 2008, they decided that they wanted to create something called a community infrastructure levy. They went out to consultation on that last year and in that consultation were some draft regulations. The consultation has finished, but the draft regulations have not yet turned into regulations so we do not yet have in place the community infrastructure levy. In any event, it was never the Government's intention to get rid of section 106 and replace it, but to have both mechanisms operating in parallel. In the draft regulations for the community infrastructure levy, it is proposed to exclude housing from certain categories that could benefit. Section 216(2)(g) of the 2008 Act would be amended to read

"such housing as CIL regulations may specify."

The intention is to limit the payments for housing.

I am keen to respond to the needs of boroughs such as mine-Southwark-and to colleagues who are in the joint administration of the council there, as well as to colleagues in all parts of the country whatever the colour of the administration. We want to meet the desperate need for more social housing. We still have a social housing crisis. There are too few affordable homes for rent, as my hon. Friend Sarah Teather knows as well as anybody. She speaks for us on the matter regularly. Much of our existing stock is in a state of disrepair. I want to allow every possible future revenue stream, from developers and everywhere else, to be used to carry out urgent renovations to local housing stock or to build new homes, if that is what the council wants.

I shall be relatively brief, because I want Mr. Jackson, who speaks for the Conservatives, my hon. Friend and the Minister to be able to contribute in the hope that they will all be favourably disposed and we can make progress with the Bill.

Housing has been one of the biggest issues in my constituency for all the 26 years since my election. Southwark is the third largest council landlord in the country and the largest local authority landlord in London. As of last October, 40,485 properties were let to social tenants. The borough is the freeholder for approximately 15,000 properties that people have bought under the right to buy. Things may have changed-in the '70s, nearly 70 per cent. of all housing in the area was social housing; the figure is now down to 45 per cent.- but a third of all the houses in the borough are the council's responsibility. The waiting list is still in the order of 15,000. On 1 April last year, 15,000 households were registered with the council as wanting social housing. In the same year, only 3,691 social rented homes became available. Southwark faces the same challenge as everybody else in local government-trying to maximise the amount of housing available when there is such huge demand both from people who need their first home and from people in an overcrowded home wanting to move to a better one.

I could easily give more figures, but without doing so, I can say that there has been a changing pattern in the provision of social rented dwellings. In England, 25,000-plus new social homes were provided every year at the beginning of the '90s. There was a peak of 57,000 in 1992-93, but the number went right down in 2004-05-the lowest year-to 21,000 new homes a year. It has picked up a little since then, but nothing like enough to meet demand.

The same pattern applied in London, as my hon. Friend knows well. In the early '90s, just over 4,000 new social homes-council and local authority-came on line over a year. The highest number in any one year was 12,000 in 1995-96, since when the lowest was in 2004-05 when just over 5,330 new homes came on stream. In Southwark, which is obviously the borough of most interest to me, in the last full year, 2008-09, no new dwellings were started, although many dwellings were being built as replacement stock. In the same year, 81 social dwellings were started. None was formally recorded as completed, though many have, happily, been completed in the past few months and people have been happily moving into them. The challenge is still the shortage of social housing.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East, our party leader, my right hon. Friend Mr. Clegg and others launched a policy the other day that would allow us to bring 250,000 empty homes back into use. That is one strategy that we are committed to, and we have set aside the money to do that. We have also made a commitment that, in a future Parliament, income would be used nationally to build new homes, renovate others and make every home, as far as possible over a 10-year period, a warm home. That would create many jobs and insulate homes, but it does not deal with the fact that many local authorities have hesitated to use section 106 money for housing or improvement of housing.

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