Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200-212)|
6 DECEMBER 2005
Q200 Mr Betts: Social Housing Use Class,
how do you think it would work?
Mr Forrest: This has been suggested
on a number of occasions in the past and has come back forcibly
to us as part of a tool-kit of solutions to meeting the need for
affordable housing. So often the discussion goes along the lines
of, even when land is available the market price of that land
is so high that housing associations cannot bid successfully for
it, and it is just one way in which the land value might conceivably
be reduced below an open market figure.
Q201 Mr Betts: Why does not Section 106
suffice to achieve that objective?
Mr Forrest: One of the things
about having a Social Housing Use Class is, it is not just that
but also, I think, it does enable planning authorities to plan
proactively and constructively for the future provision of affordable
housing in the right places and not just relying upon the way
in which the market may be working and then responding after the
event, as it were, after a planning application has come in, with
a Section 106 Agreement. Although there are other ways, rural
exception sites are another way in which affordable housing is
delivered in rural areas, but I think a Social Housing Use Class
can certainly have that effect of reducing value and enabling
associations to bid. It also has one other effect, which is similar
in urban areas across the piece, actually, where a combination
of legal advice, public sector organisations, where, again, they
have to deliver best obtainable value for their land, if the valuers
feel that a site is going to achieve far more from a private sector
developer than a housing association can pay for it, they are
not prepared to release that land necessarily for social housing.
The issue there is that if the planning arrangements with regard
to that site could include a Social Use Class on it then there
is just the possibility there that the land then would be reduced
in value and be capable of being sold to housing associations.
Q202 Mr Betts: There are two issues here,
are there not? First of all, you are saying that it enables you
to plan for social housing because you know where it is going
to be built and actually that presumes that anyone who wants to
come forward can sell the land at that price. At least with 106
you have got somebody who is proposing to build houses and you
are almost working with them to make sure that a %age of those
are better for social renting. The Social Use Class; if you designate
the land just for that purpose then it may be that they have not
noticed the market at all because it has been downvalued, and
you said the whole object is to downvalue and downprice that land,
and no-one actually wants to develop it?
Mr Forrest: I think sometimes
the prospect for Section 106 Agreements also may be said to inhibit
the release of land if they do not want a social housing component
on it. The argument can go round that loop in different ways.
Q203 Mr Betts: You do recognise that
could be the effect?
Mr Forrest: It may be; there is
also the implication that if that site really is needed to meet
an unmet affordable housing requirement then there are other ways
of bringing that forward, either voluntarily or through compulsory
Q204 Chair: You are proposing compulsory
Mr Forrest: I think, in an ultimate
situation, if a community needs that affordable housing and the
land suppliers are not coming forward then it is one way in which
that can be achieved.
Q205 Mr Betts: How do you actually produce
such a thing, because presumably one should begin to give the
idea that you want to do that, or Government announces its intention,
then there will be a consultation period, presumably, in which
time every owner of a piece of land which is going to be rezoned
for social housing is going to get a planning application in and
get permission for private housing, are they not?
Mr Forrest: Not if the planning
system is working effectively within the allocation of numbers
within the Regional Spatial Strategy. It is not a free for all.
Q206 Mr Betts: The land is already zoned
for housing. Presumably we are talking about giving up the housing
land between different uses, ie for social housing or for moderately-priced
housing, then once you begin to give an indication that you are
going to bring in this sort of system everybody who has got land
who thinks they may be going to fall into this category is going
to immediately downvalue the price of the land they own and put
in for permission for market housing, are they not, which will
scupper your proposal?
Mr Forrest: They may, but I think
authorities need to think carefully about how that land is being
released and who it is being released for, so that their Local
Housing Strategies impact on the way in which their planning system
Q207 Mr Betts: It has got permission;
if it is zoned for housing under the UDPA ODF, it is up to the
owner to come forward for planning permission?
Mr Forrest: That is where planning
authorities can and need to increasingly be clear why they are
Q208 Mr Betts: They do not release it,
Mr Forrest: In the way in which
they are giving consent for that land, so that there are briefs
and there are other means of directing how that land should be
Q209 Anne Main: Can I just be clear,
if it went to private sector only then you would be expecting
them to release their land at a reduced rate for social housing?
Mr Forrest: No, I think it should
help with the release of public sector land as well.
Q210 Anne Main: We are talking school
playfields, and things, so again equally that could be chopped
Mr Forrest: If necessary, yes,
to make that accessible, if the market price is too high for associations
Q211 Martin Horwood: I am very keen to
see more social housing, but does not this fly in the face of
the trend away from having single-typed zones and into more mixed-use
and diverse communities?
Mr Forrest: That is the risk which
needs to be avoided, certainly.
Q212 Martin Horwood: How could it possibly
be avoided, if you are zoning a particular area of land for social
Mr Gregory: We do have some examples
of a slightly different take on that, in districts that are beginning
to run out of their general supply of housing land, in accordance
with the strategy. Now they are looking for exception sites which
are excluded from the general strategy and they are focusing those
exception sites on low-value housing and they are framing the
planning permission to release those sites specifically for low-value
houses. I think it is Bromsgrove and Stratford-upon-Avon which
now have run out of the generality of housing numbers where they
can give general planning permissions. They can give planning
permission now only by exception, and that is specifically for
housing which meets their identified local need, so we have got
some examples of where that is beginning to work across the region.
Chair: Thank you very much indeed.