Growth Bill prompts concern over section 106 wording
Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Legal, Local Government
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Housing associations have raised concern over the wording of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill - introduced to Parliament yesterday - warning that it is "unclear" precisely how affordable housing commitments in section 106s will be honoured.
The new Growth and Infrastructure Bill contains a number of planning reforms aimed at streamlining the current system, including cutting back the volume of paperwork required for applications and stopping the misuse of town and village green applications that "undermine planned development".
However, the National Housing Federation (NHF) has concerns about the wording of the Bill regarding section 106s after the Government announced in September it would allow commitments to be renegotiated to get development moving.
A press notice issued by the Prime Minister's office yesterday said: "Stalled housing site projects are a problem, however, allowing the reconsideration of economically unrealistic ‘Section 106’ agreements, whilst guaranteeing existing affordable housing commitments, could get these projects moving again."
It added the reforms could lead to the completion of 75,000 homes.
The NHF's head of homes and land, Rachel Fisher, said she was pleased the Government had acknowledged the importance of ensuring s106 contributions help build more desperately needed affordable housing by "guaranteeing existing affordable housing commitments".
However, she said from the wording of the Bill "it is unclear precisely how these commitments will be honoured".
She said: "While some renegotiation of s106 agreements could lead to speedier development of both affordable and market housing, there are usually other, more significant issues holding up development. In many cases, constraints and costs of development finance and mortgage availability, as well as sales risk, are more fundamental stumbling blocks. It is critical that there is a clear and transparent process for examining the viability of schemes to establish whether it is indeed s106 contributions that are hampering viability."
The Bill will also streamline non-planning consents and help stop the misuse of town and village green applications that "undermine planned development", whilst protecting its use to safeguard community spaces and ensure the protection of genuine town and village greens.
Fisher added: "The Government’s implementation of the Penfold Review recommendations to streamline non-planning consents should speed up delivery. In particular we welcome the changes to the registration of new Town and Village Greens. This has long been an impediment to development in both urban and rural areas and this marks a significant shift in favour of sustainable development. However, we recognise the vital role that green and open spaces play in the life of communities and therefore are pleased that safeguards are still in place to ensure the protection of these valuable community assets."