Clause 95

Part of Localism Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 17th February 2011.

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Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark Minister of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Decentralisation and Cities) (also in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) 2:30 pm, 17th February 2011

I am grateful for the questions, because they give me the chance to say a little more about our intentions. As I have said, we were minded not to repeal CIL, and we thought that it was best to make use of what is on the statute book. We think that the current definitions are constraining in a number of respects, as I mentioned in relation to affordable housing and whether it should be considered part of the infrastructure. We want to reflect on that, and I intend to consult before making use of the powers that are available here.

A balance must be struck in the community infrastructure levy. It is an opportunity to have local people recognise that development is not against their interest but contributes to a better community for them. Indeed, the more they feel that that is the case, the more likely they are to accept and even encourage development and so, as it were, the cake grows. It is important to see the uses to which these funds can be put as a means of encouraging development by allowing people to participate in the returns. At the same time, that must be balanced against the explicit and quite specific need to provide the roads that connect the developments to the rest of the community.

It is worth reflecting, in the way that the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South suggested, on whether the proposals are drawn in precisely the right way at the moment, and on whether local communities should have more discretion over how the funds are deployed, which is the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford East made. It is worth reflecting on that so that we can achieve the right balance between ensuring that we have enough funds to provide the roads, railways and other contributions, and ensuring that we are making greatest use of the possibility for people very locally to see some benefits of development.

We will, therefore, consult on that, and I want to reflect on two aspects of it. Consistent with the approach that we are taking of amending rather than repealing or replacing the measures, the question of the definition of infrastructure is important. We must consider whether affordable housing is a legitimate opportunity. In addition,  providing a piece of infrastructure that is funded through CIL and not being allowed to contribute to its maintenance costs in the future, seems to me to be a rather perverse situation. If one can build something that is clearly a piece of infrastructure but one does not have the funds to maintain it in good condition, we should reflect on that. In answer to the question that was raised by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington, we are looking at the ongoing costs, which are what we have in mind. We will consult on that, however.

The other aspect, which the hon. Member for Lewisham East raised, was the question of other bodies. This addresses directly the point made by the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South about neighbourhoods in the city of Salford. We think that there should be an expectation that the people who are directly affected by development should have some entitlement to share in its benefits, which should not be kept at a higher level. There should be some obligation on the part of authorities to share benefits with the people who are affected, in much the way that the hon. Member for Bradford East mentioned. We want a proportion to be spent locally, either by the local authority, or, if there is a democratic body below that level, perhaps devolved to that body. Again, that will be the subject of consultation and further measures in regulatory form, should we find that there is support for it.

I am grateful for the opportunity to air these matters. I know that the council in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes South has some interest in it, and there is interest across the country. This is an important opportunity to amend the provisions that we have inherited to see whether they could be made just a little more pro-neighbourhood and pro-development, while not losing the important prize of providing infrastructure. I hope that that clarifies the clause.