What steps local authorities are able to take to hold to account developers that do not engage with local communities on (a) section 106 agreements and (b) other local planning matters after planning consent has been given.
Our recent reforms gave local authorities the tools to make it more difficult for developers to renegotiate contributions after planning consent. Where developers do not deliver on contributions, these can be enforced through legal proceedings. Finally, local authorities are required to consult on planning applications before consent is granted.
As part of a planning agreement, Persimmon is responsible for building a relief road for Towcester as part of that town’s expansion in my constituency. Highways England is providing £4 million to try to bring forward delivery of the road, but that now seems to be at risk due to problems between the developer and Highways England. Will my right hon. Friend meet me to discuss how we can work together to ensure that the road gets built?
I would be very happy to meet my right hon. Friend to discuss the point she makes. We want to ensure that there is a tie-up on infrastructure; the £5.5 billion housing infrastructure fund is there precisely to support that activity. On section 106 agreements, the Housing Minister and I firmly believe that transparency —publication and making them available, so there is direct accountability—is really important. I will certainly meet my right hon. Friend.
The Secretary of State will know that over my time there have been serious problems with the non-delivery of section 106 agreements, so could we not look at them? When building houses, land tends to be cleared and trees cut down. Under a new kind of section 106 agreement, we could make developers put money into building new forests, such as the Great Northern forest and the White Rose forest.
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that how we create stronger, greener environments is a part of the delivery we firmly need, so that we have a relationship between built and natural environments. I believe very strongly in creating communities. The new planning guide, with the national planning policy framework, provides greater certainty, but we continue to review this area with an accelerated planning Green Paper later this year. If the hon. Gentleman has specific points he would like to raise on how we ensure that that sense of greenness within development is upheld, I will be very grateful to hear from him.
Developers are not the only ones who do not engage with local people. In fact, the whole way in which we consult on planning is out of date and is regarded with some scepticism by many members of the public. May I urge the Secretary of State to tackle that—not least by putting in proper resources and extending the scope of neighbourhood planning, as his Minister referred to earlier?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for highlighting neighbourhood plans, which I believe in very strongly, and how we garner that greater consent for development to take place. I underline the sense of how we speed up the process with planning, with development and with those plans. That is what the accelerated planning Green Paper is all about. I would be delighted to continue to discuss this matter with my hon. Friend and others to ensure that we make that effective.