CLG plays down affordable housing losses in section 106 changes
Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Local Government
CLG denies section 106 change will be at cost of affordable housing
The Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) has played down fears that plans to allow developers to renegotiate section 106 agreements on schemes deemed unviable in the current market will be at the expense of affordable housing.
The department wants to get work on stalled schemes going again and is convinced that much of it is being held up because of “economically unrealistic agreements” negotiated between councils and developers in the boom times.
As such, it has announced a consultation on plans that will see developers able to “formally request” councils to renegotiate section 106s if they were agreed prior to April 2010.
The department also announced today it was sending in teams of intermediaries to offer free advice to councils and developers on section 106s, provide technical help and act as go-betweens in disputes. Councils in Leeds, Ipswich, Corby, Swindon, Ashford, Gloucester, Kirklees, Carlisle, Northumberland and Durham will be the first to benefit from the support.
The moves are in a bid to unlock work on some 1,400 stalled schemes with planning – of which 62% predate April 2010.
Under the current system where voluntary renegotiation between developers and councils can’t be reached, a formal request can only be made when the obligation is five years old. Under new plans, a formal request will be able to be made one month after the introduction of the new regulations.
Last year the department wrote to all authorities encouraging them to consider whether voluntary renegotiations could take place – which has worked in some cases – but stresses it now wants to take it further.
Affordable housing represents the largest proportion of all obligations.
The department said that some obligations agreed prior to April 2010 which include a high level of affordable housing, “may now be so unviable that development may not occur at all under the current terms”.
However, it said renegotiation need not mean reduction.
It said in the consultation: “As with all other areas of obligations, renegotiation does not mean that affordable housing contributions should automatically be reduced or lost. It means that obligations should be tested against local plan policies to see if a revised obligation serves its purpose equally well. It may be possible, for example, for authorities and developers to agree a similar level of provision, but in different ways or to change the phasing in which delivery is expected. Where the overall level of affordable housing needs to be reduced to reflect changed viability, local authorities may consider requiring delivery within an agreed timeframe.”
It stressed there must be a “strong justification” for any change, and the resultant obligation must still be sufficient to make the development acceptable in planning terms under section 106A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
Planning Inspectors, when hearing appeals, will also have to apply these principles in reaching their decisions. The Planning Inspectorate, the consultation paper said, should aim to consider the majority of written representation appeal cases within 14 weeks.
READ NEXT »