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You are right, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to direct me to section 106, although it is obvious that we have a good story on decent homes, and I was keen to tell it. Section 106 is a vehicle for delivery. As the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey will know, section 106 agreements, also known as planning obligations, are private legal agreements between local authorities and developers. They can be attached to a planning permission to make acceptable a proposed development that would otherwise be unacceptable in planning terms. Such obligations can be used to prescribe the nature of a new development, for example, requiring a given portion of new market housing on a site to be provided as affordable housing. They can be used to compensate
for loss or damage created by a development-for example, loss of open space caused by a new development. Finally, they can be used to mitigate the impact of a development, for example, through increased public transport provision, where the impact of new development puts pressure on existing services. That point was made by the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth.
Philip Davies: The Minister is getting to the nub of the matter. Section 106 agreements are often put in place after a large planning application has gone through, to try to help the local community and mitigate the worst effects of the application. Is he not concerned that the Bill might lead to another kick in the teeth for local residents, who see the money that is provided for mitigation being used to build even more houses?
Mr. Malik: The hon. Gentleman poses a powerful question. That is one of the dilemmas in the Bill. Instead of mitigating the impacts of developments for local communities that are directly impacted, the money could be used elsewhere, which completely undermines the rationale for the section 106 agreement in the first place.
Simon Hughes: That is completely not what the Bill would do. The local authority, representing the local community, would have the choice. If it thought that a community wanted a development, it could choose to proceed. Communities such as the Tyers or the Whites Grounds estates near London bridge would say, "We are very happy either to have our housing improved, or to see some local, affordable, suitable housing built as well as a very very tall office block." Local communities will be very supportive of that.
Mr. Malik: Of course, I understand where the hon. Gentleman is coming from with the Bill, but I will make the point once again that section 106 is drafted as it is so that there is no discretion for the local authority. If there were, there is every likelihood that resources would drift away from the areas that are directly affected by the development itself. That is the rationale of section 106. I understand the laudable objective of getting more housing or improving housing. We all support that, but that is not what section 106 ostensibly relates to. Proceeding with the Bill would take us in a direction with which most of us would be relatively uncomfortable.
Simon Hughes: Nothing in the Bill changes the present rules that mean there has to be a local benefit, just as under all section 106 agreements. Nothing will suddenly allow a council to move a development to the other end of its area as a benefit. Nothing will change, the Bill will simply allow a council to use the measure for housing, if that is what the council wants.
Debates get to a stage when people are just not going to agree-that is probably where we are now. That is not because I believe the objectives are not
laudable-they are-but the vehicle that is being used to achieve them is fundamentally inappropriate. I and other hon. Members have given some of the good reasons why that is so. I accept that our arguments have not penetrated as they might have done, but that is the hon. Gentleman's prerogative.
It is a long-standing principle that planning obligations should not be used purely as a means of securing for the local community a share in the profits of development. Likewise, planning obligations should not be used solely to resolve existing deficiencies, such as housing in poor repair. That is because planning obligations are intended to be used where there is a strong relationship between the impacts of a new development and the action required through section 106 to mitigate or compensate for them.
The Government's policy requires, amongst other factors, that planning obligations are sought only when they are relevant to planning; necessary to make the proposed development acceptable in planning terms; directly related to the proposed development; fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind to the proposed development; and reasonable in all other respects.
Local authorities use planning obligations to secure developer contributions towards a wide range of things, including land, transport and travel, open space and the environment, community works and leisure, and education. Around half the value of all contributions, however, is made towards the provision of new affordable housing in the form of either in-kind, on-site provision or by financial contribution to the local authority by the developer-
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Ind): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I would be grateful for your advice. Would it be in the democratic interest for it to be on the record that the objection came from the Conservative Benches?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. Gentleman should be clear about what he is saying before putting it on the record. In any event, it is not a point of order for the Chair. He knows Friday procedure as well as I do.
Jeremy Wright (Rugby and Kenilworth) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wish to clarify that the objection came not from the Conservative Benches, but from the Government Benches.
That, for the purposes of its approval under section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993, the Government's assessment as set out in the Pre-Budget Report 2009 shall be treated as if it were an instrument subject to the provisions of Standing Order No. 118 (Delegated Legislation Committees).-( Mr. Spellar.)
John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab): It is not with great pleasure that I have applied to discuss this topic this afternoon, because antisocial behaviour is probably the biggest plague of modern times. We can see from the Opposition Benches just how important and serious an issue it is to them. Those Benches have emptied, but Opposition Members will probably regret leaving, because I will later reveal statistical data on local authorities and their attitudes to antisocial behaviour.
First, I wish to discuss the positive. Much of this debate will concentrate on the punitive powers that need to be more effectively used-indeed, some local authorities are not using them at all. When we deal with antisocial behaviour, it is essential that we provide, especially for our young people, alternatives to hanging around on the street with, in their words, "Nothing to do at all." There is nowhere in the country where young people have historically had less to do in the last 30 years than the constituency of Bassetlaw. The local burghers have been good over the years at providing facilities for pensioners, and they are a strong lobby, not least on the local authorities. Indeed, they are a majority in absolute terms among the elected members, and have been for some time. Therefore, the pensioner voice is rightly heard. I like to pride myself on being one of the champions of pensioner issues across the country, but we must also ensure that local authorities give priority to young people. If we have areas with no cinemas and a lack of sporting facilities and other activities, the disrespect that we show young people is bound to rebound on to society.
I cite as a good example the shameful case of the cinema that Bassetlaw council first promised in 2002, as part of a planning deal-a very unpopular deal-with a large supermarket called Tesco and a developer called Henry Boot. In that plan, the council was to sell its land for an unpopular development by Tesco. The council then passed approval on the explicit basis that it would build a bowling alley and a cinema, aimed at young people in particular, with the moneys that it had received as a capital receipt. Despite the controversy, the plan was adopted. The plans were agreed and the money-£12 million-has been paid over.
The young people in Bassetlaw ask, "Where is our cinema? Where is our bowling alley?" Indeed, I have been asking that repeatedly over the past five years. I have been given promise after promise, but there is no cinema and no bowling alley. The council has put the money in its coffers-some would suggest that it needs some of that money, because of its failed speculation with Icelandic banks. However, even aside from the £8 million that the council unwisely invested in Iceland, that still leaves £4.5 million, which is more than sufficient to build a cinema and a bowling alley. The young people of Bassetlaw are asking this question, so it should be put on the record today: where are our facilities and why has our council not provided them?
But if that were not bad enough, on 23 December a planning application was considered for another supermarket, which would have created 1,000 jobs, including
400 this year, and a multi-sports complex, which would have brought the local football team-a team with 21 junior football teams, and therefore one involving a swathe of young people in the town-back to the town. Again, the said council decided to vote against that application. It is probably the only council in Britain that turns down jobs and youth facilities when offered them for free by the private sector. As one young man-an eight or nine-year old-said to me, "I'm part of Worksop Town: I'm one of the players. I want to play there. I want to see our stadium." That is about aspiration, and it is precisely such opportunities that are the antidote to the antisocial behaviour on which our councils, and particularly Bassetlaw, let us down.
However, punitive measures are also important. One would think that Bassetlaw and other such councils that do not invest in youth facilities would at least invest in dealing with antisocial behaviour. I have therefore taken the opportunity to make a freedom of information request of every local authority in the country, to see exactly whether the many powers that have been wisely given by the Government-I have actively and willingly voted in favour of all powers suggested while I have been a Member, and will do so in future-are being used. The Local Government Association, in a special briefing for this debate, says yes.
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Ind): Antisocial behaviour is a particular problem in my constituency but, according to local residents, the council appears to be doing very little about it. Can the hon. Gentleman please tell me what the results of his freedom of information request say about Castle Point borough council and what it is doing about the problem?
John Mann: I am prepared to make my results public to the entire world, including the hon. Gentleman, although he might be a little disappointed that his local authority has chosen, illegally, not to respond to my freedom of information request. It is most peculiar that it does not even give priority to its legal requirement to respond to a request to provide such information. I must be more diligent in pursuing his council to ensure that it fulfils that legal obligation and provides him with the answer that it perhaps does not wish the world to see.
Of course, Castle Point begins with the letter C. If it began with the letter A, things would be straightforward, because no local authority beginning with the letter A has ever issued any antisocial behaviour orders of any kind. It so happens that overall control on every one of those authorities is held by a certain political persuasion, of a particular colour. That might be a coincidence-I have an analysis of the figures to lay before the House-but no authority beginning with the letter A has chosen to spend anything whatever on ASBOs.
Bassetlaw, as one would expect from my earlier remarks, has chosen to spend no money on ASBOs, despite the fact that we have a small number of nightmare households that ruin communities with their bullying, intimidation, vandalism and abuse. I could name those households; the police could name them; the council could also name them. Quite a number of them are in council accommodation, so why is the council-along with many others across the country-not using its powers? This applies not only to ASBOs. Many local authorities are not using their powers relating to waste, abandoned
cars, fireworks and noise controls. It is as though they are bidding for the Olympics. Their figures for the past five years show five zeros: the five rings, the five doing nothings. We see this in authority after authority.
There are examples of good authorities, however. The city of Nottingham, an excellently run authority, has taken a lead in challenging antisocial behaviour and I give it particular credit for its zero tolerance policy with regard to the shameful gardens that some of its tenants used to keep but are no longer entitled to keep. The council is bringing up the neighbourhood. The same dysfunctional families and households are often involved in these practices as well. Often, the problems involve not the younger children but the older ones and the adults. The council has tackled those problems effectively. Manchester city council has also taken a lead in issuing ASBOs and using its powers inventively. It has given the bullies who hassle their communities more hassle in return than they give out. That is the direction that we need to take.
It is worth putting some figures on record. Sixty-one per cent. of councils that do not use ASBOs in a given year are Conservative administrations. It is no surprise that its Front-Bench Members have now disappeared. Twenty-five per cent. of the councils not issuing ASBOs have no overall control, 9 per cent. are Liberal Democrat and 6 per cent. are Labour. So the number of Labour councils not using this power is negligible, compared with the rest. The Conservative party has considerable control over local government at the moment, but these figures demonstrate that councils right across the country are not issuing any ASBOs at all. What support does that offer to the police? More importantly, what support are those local authorities giving to their communities, and to those embattled neighbours who have to live next door to the bullies, the abusers and the hasslers? They are the people who are being let down by those local authorities' refusal to use their powers.
I commend the range of powers that the Government have brought forward, and the extra resources that have been put in. The Government have given Bassetlaw council more money to deal with antisocial behaviour, but it still does not spend a penny on tackling the known thugs and bullies. These days, that should be a primary role for a local authority. Exemplars such as Nottingham or Manchester city councils should not stand out as beacons. What they are doing is not necessarily brilliant, but it is brilliant in comparison with everyone else. What they are doing should be mundane, humdrum, everyday activity. I do not want those people who give grief to our communities by targeting pensioners and bullying mothers with children to be given air and space in our communities. They should be clamped down on.
I would like to see civil and criminal powers being used against those thugs and bullies, and those people who torment others and who believe that they are beyond the law. I want those powers to be used against the households that become a centre and a catalyst for antisocial behaviour and attract young people-usually the 16 to 25-year-olds-to stay overnight, drinking and perhaps taking drugs. Small numbers of those young people use the households as a base from which to go out and terrify and intimidate their local community.
We need to get back control of our streets and that means we need effective policing. I commend Nottinghamshire police force, which, following my question to the Prime Minister and his action from 9 December, reallocated 84 police officers to the north of the county. It was about time that we got that number of police. It should not require an MP raising the issue in this House to get that level of policing; those police should always be there. Those police-good men and women who are doing their job and taking the brunt of challenging antisocial behaviour-need support from civil society, with local authorities using their powers as landlords, using their powers under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 and using the swathe of inventive powers that have been rightly given by this Government. I commend those powers, and I commend my report to those who are willing to look at it and hold to account local authorities that are refusing to put respect and pride back into their communities. Such authorities are not doing what they should be doing, which is leading as civil leaders, using their powers and tackling the bullies. I look forward to the Minister's response.
The Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism (Mr. David Hanson): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) on securing the debate and, as ever, putting his case strongly and in encouraging terms. He has focused clearly on an important point, which is that, first and foremost, we should not be tolerating antisocial behaviour. Each authority, be it the police, a local council or central Government, should take action on that matter. On behalf of the Government, I commend the focus that he has put on the need not to tolerate antisocial behaviour and to use the many tools and powers available to ensure that we bear down on its causes and the consequences for communities. As he said, communities are often hard pressed by a small number of individuals who make life hell for their neighbours and the rest of their community.
I was particularly interested to hear of my hon. Friend's constituency experiences with Bassetlaw district council and to hear about the campaign that he is running-I only learned of it in this debate-for a cinema and bowling alley to be used to support an essential part of the alternatives to antisocial behaviour: positive activities for young people. I am sure that he will return to that with gusto outside the Chamber.
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