Housing and Planning Bill - Report (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 25th April 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 5:30 pm, 25th April 2016

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, for raising an issue that I think is seen as important on all sides of this House. Her amendment would enable local planning authorities to require affordable housing contributions, in cash or kind, from small-scale developments and from developments in rural areas. I hope I can provide assurances of how we propose to use the power to support housing delivery and the fact that we recognise the issues faced by rural areas in particular.

During debate in Committee I explained that local authorities currently can set affordable housing policies in their local plans and use Section 106 agreements to secure affordable housing delivery and agree financial contributions in lieu of on-site affordable housing contributions.

We all agree on the importance affordable housing, which is why the Government announced in the spending review investment of £8 billion to deliver 400,000 affordable housing starts by 2020-21. However, we know that, on particular types of site, the way in which affordable housing contributions are determined can delay development and affect housing delivery. Clause 143 will enable us to bring about a more consistent approach to how Section 106 agreements can be used in relation to affordable housing provision. This could include conditions on how planning obligations are sought for affordable housing. These can be varied by the type of site to which they apply.

We know that the details of any restrictions will require careful consideration to deliver benefits in enabling overall housing delivery while taking careful account of the need to deliver affordable housing. Measures implementing this power will be set out in regulations which will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, so noble Lords will have further opportunity for scrutiny.

It has been made clear in previous debates on this clause and others, including the debates on starter homes and high-value assets, that rural areas face distinct challenges. Concerns have been raised about the impact that the Bill could have on rural areas and we are committed to considering how rural exception sites are given discretion in any compulsory starter home requirement and how we can consider excluding them from high-value asset payments.

The power to make regulations in Clause 143 is a broad one and allows us to take into account the concerns raised. I am happy and willing to continue to work with the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, and the noble Lords, Lord Cameron and Lord Best, on what these regulations will contain. However, I cannot commit to bringing forward an amendment by Third Reading.

We recently heard from the Communities and Local Government Select Committee about the importance of monitoring the effect of this policy. By bringing forward any restrictions or conditions through regulations we can also ensure that they can be more easily reviewed so that they maximise the benefits for housing delivery more broadly.

I hope my reassurance and recognition of the particular issues faced by rural areas will enable the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.