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Prisoners: Technical Lifer Status

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: From 2 April 2005 life sentence prisoners who have been transferred to psychiatric hospital for treatment will no longer be considered for technical lifer status. All life sentence prisoners will have their future release determined by the Parole Board and be subject to life licence on release. This decision has been taken in light of the judgment in the case of Benjamin and Wilson v the United Kingdom, which found that technical lifer policy was in breach of Article 5(4) of the European Convention on Human Rights. This will not affect those who have already been granted technical lifer status, or the consideration of any pending applications. No new applications however, will be considered after 2 April 2005.

Planning for Housing

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): My right honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Planning has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

This Statement concerns the planning system's role in providing sufficient homes to meet the variety of housing needs in England. The intention is to remove barriers to delivering the housing needed in our communities and ensure the planning system is not a brake on an adequate and continuing supply of sites for housing in sustainable locations.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is publishing today two updates to planning policy guidance Note 3: Housing (PPG3), entitled Supporting the Delivery of New Housing and Planning for Sustainable Communities in Rural Areas. Both updates will help to increase the supply of housing where it is
 
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needed in the most sustainable way possible. They reflect the changes to the planning system made in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.

These updates were the subject of consultation in July 2003. The remainder of the PPG3 update Influencing the Size, Type and Affordability of Housing, of which Planning for Sustainable Communities in Rural Areas was a component, is being further consulted upon. I am making a separate Statement on this today.

Supporting the Delivery of New Housing

PPG3 requires local planning authorities, when preparing their local development frameworks, to review all their non-housing allocations and to consider whether some of this land might be better used for housing or mixed-use development. The Government's experience is that nevertheless many local planning authorities continue to reserve an excess supply of land when it would make sense to consider this for housing.

The consultation update proposed an approach to the handling of applications for housing and mixed use development on land allocated or previously used for industrial or commercial use which is no longer needed for that use, and which is both suitable for and needed for housing. The Government have considered the responses to the consultation and are adding today the following new paragraph 42(a) to PPG3:

"Local planning authorities should consider favourably planning applications for housing or mixed use developments which concern land allocated for industrial or commercial use in saved policies and development plan documents or redundant land or buildings in industrial or commercial use, but which is no longer needed for such use, unless any of the following apply:


 
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In December 2004 the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister published practice guidance for local planning authorities on carrying out employment land reviews to assess the demand for and supply of land for employment. The guidance aims to help local planning authorities assess the suitability of sites for employment development, safeguard the best sites for employment and identify those which are no longer suitable for employment development and which should be made available for other uses. A copy of the practice guidance is available in the Libraries of the House.

Planning for Sustainable Communities in Rural Areas

The consultation PPG3 update Influencing the Size, Type and Affordability of Housing proposed to replace the rural exception policy with an allocation policy, which would enable local planning authorities to allocate sites solely for affordable housing. In the light of the consultation responses a revised approach has been developed, aimed at meeting concerns expressed about the practical effects of the proposed approach. The Government are today amending PPG3 policy, adding a new section which will enable local planning authorities to allocate sites in rural areas, but also to take advantage of windfall sites through a continuing rural exception approach. The intention to retain the rural exception policy alongside a new allocation policy was signalled by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she published her department's five-year strategy Delivering the Essentials of Life on 8 December 2004.

The replacement paragraph 18 of PPG3 is as follows:

"18. It is important that there is adequate housing provision in rural areas to meet the needs of local people and to contribute to the delivery of sustainable communities. Regional spatial strategies should set out how planning at the local level is expected to contribute to meeting identified rural affordable housing needs (including Gypsies and Travellers where relevant). Local planning authorities should make sufficient land available either within or adjoining existing rural communities to enable these local requirements to be met in a manner which contributes to the achievement of sustainable communities. Affordable housing provision in rural areas should be supported by a rural exception site policy (see Annex B). Rural exception sites should be small, solely for affordable housing and on land within or adjoining existing small rural communities 1 which would not otherwise be released for general market housing. The affordable housing provided on such sites should meet local needs 2 in perpetuity and count towards the overall level of housing provision. The rural exception site policy applies to both allocated or windfall sites."

An addition to paragraph 36 of PPG3 is highlighted in bold below:

36. Authorities should make specific allowances for all the different types of windfalls in their plans. Allowance should be made on the basis of examining
 
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past trends in windfalls coming forward for development and on the likely future windfall potential as assessed in a capacity study. No allowance should be made for greenfield windfalls (except for rural exception sites, see Annex B and refer to Annex D for good practice advice on capacity studies).

The replacement Annex B of PPG3 is as follows:

"Annex B: Rural exception sites

1. All local planning authorities that include rural areas should include a rural exception site policy in the relevant development plan document. A rural exception site policy enables the authority to allocate or release small sites within and adjoining existing small rural communities 1 , which may be subject to policies of restraint, such as green belt, and which would not otherwise be released for housing, but only in order to provide affordable housing to meet local needs 2 in perpetuity.

2. In preparing local development documents, local planning authorities should take account of their local housing assessment and should consider the benefits of preparing village appraisals, which encompass assessments of housing, economic and environmental profiles of rural communities. In doing so, they should work closely with their local communities, landowners and housing providers to prepare strategies for implementing exception schemes, including identifying possible sites. Based on these assessments, the local planning authority should set out:

3. Development plan documents may allocate sites solely for affordable housing and should set out the criteria against which windfall sites will be considered.

4. Rural exception sites are not appropriate for general market housing or market housing for local needs only. It is unacceptable to include clauses in planning obligations which would enable lenders of private finance to dispose of property on the open market as a last resort if a borrower were to get into financial difficulties. Such clauses should also be unnecessary in the case of loans to registered social landlords, in part, because of the safeguards to private
 
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lenders offered by the Housing Act 1996. Planning obligations should be used to set out a cascade mechanism 3 that will ensure that occupiers are always found for affordable housing provided on rural exception sites".


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