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I congratulate Simon Hughes on securing a place in the private Members' Bill ballot. With all due respect, though, I fear that this is a piecemeal Bill that tackles a symptom rather than the substantive issue. I will explain why a little later.
Her Majesty's Opposition think that section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 should be restricted to site-specific improvements to make something acceptable in planning terms that otherwise would not be acceptable without that improvement. In that context, Conservatives have some concerns about the Bill. Improving residential premises might be justified as a site-specific measure, but we believe that building new premises would not. The Bill threatens to turn section 106 into even more of a development tax, on top of the community infrastructure levy.
As regards planning obligations, we are worried that the cumulative effect of regulatory burdens on the house building industry would undermine the viability of many housing regeneration projects, resulting in fewer homes being built. We want to review the whole manner in which the section 106 regime and the proposed additional community infrastructure levy works. We will examine how those levies can be simplified and localised so that individuals and communities affected by new development are not only properly compensated for any loss of amenity but benefit from genuinely improved places to live post-development. We want to give councils greater fiscal incentives to promote economic development and house building in their area by reform of the local government finance process. We will publish more details of those proposals for planning reform within the next few weeks.
I shall be as brief as possible on the specific key questions to allow Sarah Teather and the Minister to enter the debate. As I said, section 106 is designed to make something acceptable in planning terms that otherwise would not be acceptable without that improvement. By extending its scope to building new premises, the Bill threatens to be a development tax. Perhaps the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey will give some consideration to that.
A parliamentary answer in March 2009 stated that of £4 billion of section 106 money, 90 per cent. was going not in cash to local authorities but directly towards the provision of various agreements and planning obligations. That left about £340 million for local authorities. Is not the real point that the levies need to be simplified and localised? Would the measures in the Bill add to the cumulative effect of regulatory burdens on the building industry?
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