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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 18 July 2005


Tax and Benefit Reference Manual

The Paymaster General (Dawn Primarolo): Copies of the 2005–06 edition of the Tax Benefit Reference Manual (TBRM) are today being deposited in the House of Commons Library.

HM Treasury publishes the TBRM annually. It is a technical manual detailing the tax and benefit system, describing both the current and historic regimes. There are also tables of time series covering tax and benefit rates, numbers of tax payers and benefit claimants, VAT and duty rates and the tax burden on specimen households.


Choice and Voice in the Reform of Public Services

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Hutton): The Government have today published their response to the Public Administration Select Committee's report on choice, voice and the public services.

The Government welcome the Public Administration Select Committee's report and see the Committee's comment and recommendations as a valuable contribution to the debate on how public services can be further improved.

I am placing copies of the Government's response in the Library.


Review Board for Government Contracts

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): The Government have accepted the findings of the Review Board for Government Contracts as detailed in their report of the 2005 annual review of the profit formula for non-competitive Government contracts. I will place a copy of the report in both Libraries of the House.



The Minister for Housing and Planning (Yvette Cooper): This statement announces three new planning policy documents which the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) is publishing today:
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ODPM is also publishing today research on the use of planning obligations to deliver affordable housing.

Alongside these documents ODPM is also publishing jointly with HM Treasury a document setting out the importance of the Government's housing agenda for achieving the UK's social and economic priorities and for delivering stability and opportunity.

Copies of these documents are being placed in the Libraries of the House.

Planning for Housing Provision

In April 2003 the Government commissioned Kate Barker to carry out a review of issues underlying the lack of supply and responsiveness of housing supply in the UK. Demand for housing has increased over the last 30 years, driven by demographic trends and rising incomes. Yet the supply of new housing has fallen by 30 per cent. compared to 30 years ago.

The Barker review of housing supply report, "Delivering stability: Securing our future housing needs", published in March 2004, made a number of recommendations relevant to the planning system, in particular, its ability to release appropriate land for housing in an effective and timely manner. Planning was seen as a key constraint on the delivery of housing. The revision of current policy on planning for housing, set out in planning policy guidance note 3: housing (PPG3), was regarded as a priority, in order to improve delivery of sufficient homes and to achieve housing targets more effectively.

The Government agree with the Barker review proposition that the planning system must be able to deliver sufficient land, in the right places, to meet need and be more responsive to demand. If plans fail to deliver appropriate land for housing, house prices will continue to increase, there will continue to be worsening affordability, and key workers will continue to seek in vain for homes near their jobs. Equally, if the planning system fails to address low demand, the difficulties faced by communities, in terms of abandonment and crime, will increase.

The challenge for the planning system is to find the right way to respond flexibly to housing market pressures, in order to achieve social justice, and sustainable development. The Government believe that consideration of housing market pressures must be part of the planning system, so that it can operate swiftly and effectively, in the public interest.

ODPM is therefore publishing today a consultation paper "Planning for Housing Provision" which sets out the Government's objectives for delivering a better supply of housing through the planning system. Improving housing supply and access to housing is critical to improving affordability in the long term and securing the wider benefits that housing brings to the economy and society. The consultation paper proposes
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a new policy approach to ensuring that appropriate land is allocated in plans to meet the need for housing, respond more effectively to changes in demand, and promote consumer choice. It also continues the priority given to brownfield development. It provides for different approaches in areas such as the Thames Gateway which are designated for high levels of housing growth compared to other areas where the level of new housing needs to be carefully managed. It promotes longer term planning as well as much more rapid reviews of plans where demand changes. The Government will respond to the other recommendations of the Barker review by the end of the year.

This consultation will be an important input to a new planning policy statement on planning for housing (PPS3). In the autumn Government will consult on a new draft PPS3 which will set out the broad national policy framework for planning for housing. The aim will be to ensure that the planning system is used to its maximum effect to ensure that everyone has the opportunity of a decent home, which they can afford, within a community which is sustainable and in which they want to live and work.

The new draft PPS3 will also draw on the consultation paper "Planning for Mixed Communities" published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in January 2005, and the responses to it.

Consultation Draft of a New Green Belt Direction

The Government recognise the need to protect the green belt in taking forward new development. It has set a target for each region to maintain or increase the area of green belt designated in local plans. As a demonstration of the continuing importance the Government attach to the protection of the openness of the green belt, and to the prevention of urban sprawl, the ODPM is also publishing today a consultation paper on a proposed new town and country planning (green belt) direction.

This new direction would, for the first time, specifically require that planning applications for inappropriate development of certain types and scale in the green belt, which local planning authorities are minded to approve, should be referred to the First Secretary of State. While the Secretary of State would continue to use his powers of intervention selectively, the new direction would ensure that he has the opportunity to consider whether to call in for a public inquiry and his own determination, the more significant and potentially most harmful development proposals in the green belt.

Planning obligations

The system of planning obligations is important in delivering essential infrastructure and other matters necessary to ensure all new development is sustainable in planning terms. However, planning obligations have in the past been responsible for delays in the system. The ODPM is today publishing a new circular on planning obligations—circular 05/2005—aimed at speeding up the system, so as to support the delivery of development, including new housing.

In November 2004 the ODPM published a draft revised circular on planning obligations. This led to a very fruitful consultation period in which 279
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respondents contributed their views in writing and discussions were held in regional seminars and bilateral meetings.

The overarching aims of the new circular are to increase transparency, predictability, accountability and speed in the negotiation of planning obligations, and to promote the good practice that already exists in many local authorities. It also brings planning obligations into line with the new arrangements established by the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, and provides a firmer policy basis for the provision of affordable housing through planning obligations.

The final version of the circular makes a number of changes from the draft for the sake of clarity and precision, and introduces some new procedural guidance but the policy scope of planning obligations remains the same.

The circular will be supported by the publication of good practice guidance on the use of planning obligations later this year. A standard legal document for planning agreements and unilateral undertakings will accompany this guidance.

The revision of planning obligations policy is intended to improve the existing system. In the meantime, the Government are continuing to examine Kate Barker's recommendations for a planning-gain supplement and associated changes to the system of planning obligations, made in the final report of her review of housing supply. The Government will announce their full response to the Barker report by the end of the year.

Value for money of delivering affordable housing through section 106 agreements

In November 2003, ODPM commissioned the university of Cambridge to undertake a study on the value for money of delivering affordable housing through the planning system i.e. through section 106 agreements. The aim was to provide evidence on how much affordable housing is being delivered through planning obligations and how it is being funded. The study also examined how far providing affordable housing in this way contributes to mixed communities.

The study confirms the importance of using planning obligations in the delivery of affordable housing. The research indicates that as developers and local authorities are becoming more familiar with using planning obligations, the system is improving. The study also found that delivering affordable housing in this way makes a valuable contribution to the Government's aim of mixed communities, in particular by providing access to land in high value areas.

However, the research also suggests that there is room for improvement. The main drawbacks of the current system are perceived to be the delays in negotiation and the resulting costs. The new circular on planning obligations aims to address some of these issues.

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