Growth and Infrastructure Bill

Memorandum submitted by Cornwall Councillor John V Keeling MBE (GIB 56)

To House of Commons Public Bill Committee,

I have deep concerns regarding the Growth and Infrastructure Bill making its way through Parliament that the government will allow the Planning Inspectorate to renegotiate the affordable housing element of the Section 106 agreements and allow developers to require agreements on their contributions to local infrastructure to be reopened. I feel that further changes to the planning system will not address the key issues stalling development and will lead to delay and uncertainty. I live in the far west of Cornwall, which suffers desperately from a lack of affordable local needs housing and the changes will only exasperate the situation further. The real obstacle to growth could be tackled by government by working with councils, banks and businesses by making mortgages more accessible to buyers and finance more accessible to developers. The motion in appendix 1 was put forward by me to full council, but the Chairman deferred it to cabinet and, as yet, it as not been considered. Nevertheless, I will continue to pursue the executive on this matter. I feel that this is a great opportunity to empower local authorities and areas to drive growth from the ground up and my council is already working with developers to bring forward development. Local renegotiations are the best of way of sorting out problems when developers are in difficulty rather than granting greater power to an unelected quango.

Appendix 1

Motion to Full Cornwall Council 23rd October 2012.

Government proposals, via legislation, are intended to be taken forward to be put in place early 2013 to allow developers to appeal to the planning inspectorate to review sites which they consider to be unviable due to affordable home requirements within S106 agreements. Thus the planning inspectorate would have the power to remove affordable housing requirements from existing and possibly future agreements. If these proposals are taken forward it would represent national rather than local decision making and a clear risk that this may delay development being brought forward until the new regime is in place. Demand for affordable housing is growing and a major council priority; thus it is vital that councils continue to set local policies for S106 agreements which are based on statutory tests that the obligation should be reasonable, necessary and related to the development. Further, local renegotiations are the best way of sorting out problems when developers are in difficulty, rather than granting greater powers for the planning inspectorate. The wider market issues relate to demand and access to mortgage and development finance and changes to section 106 will not make it easier for developers to sell houses more cheaply.

Therefore, I urge the council, by whatever means, to urgently lobby central government without delay to object strongly to these proposals.  


December 2012

Prepared 10th December 2012