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03/11/2015

Housing and planning bill - second reading round-up

Words: Laura Edgar
Homes / iStock_000020788340

Brownfield sites are to be prioritised for development, provisions for automatic planning permission in principle and the right to buy all featured in the second reading of the housing and planning bill.

The housing and planning bill, which also includes the removal of the need for s.106 contribution from starter home developments and the provision for the secretary of state to call-in planning decisions, will also be the first to be considered under new English votes for English laws rules.

During the reading (2 November), communities secretary Greg Clark spoke about how brownfield land will be prioritised for development.

“The bill establishes a new strategy register for brownfield land so that councils can have an up-to-date and publicly accessible source of information about land that is suitable for housing.”

He added that the government want to see planning permission given to 90 per cent of registered brownfield sites by 2020.

Concerns were raised regarding planning permission being granted automatically for brownfield site.

Clive Betts, Labour MP for Sheffield South East, said that as a result, “local authorities will not have the right to negotiate infrastructure deals as part of those permissions”.

Conservative mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith called for specific measures applying to London regarding the right-to-buy. Speaking during the reading, Goldsmith said the gap between supply and demand remains “very wide” and without “radical” action, “it will grow wider still, further pricing Londoners out of their own city”.

While expressing his support for the bill, he did concede that it needs amending. Following the reading, he said he would table an amendment asking for a “binding guarantee” that London will see a net gain in affordable housing as a result of the right-to-buy policy. “In addition to the replaced housing association homes, at least two-low cost homes built for every single high-value home sold.”

Sadiq Khan, Labour mayoral candidate for London, said that over recent years there has been “no like-for-like replacement” of affordable homes sold under the existing right-to-buy scheme.

Stating that only one in seven council homes sold have been replaced, Khan continued: “There is nothing in the bill to guarantee that money must be reinvested in the local area, replacing like-for-like sold-off homes.”

Commenting on granting planning permission in principle Ruth Cadbury, Labour Brentford and Isleworth MP, said it will “severely restrict the ability of local authorities, community organisations and the public to comment on, or object to, development on these sites, Furthermore, there has been no public consultation on this provision”.

Shadow housing and planning minister, John Healey, said the bill will lead to a decrease in both the number of affordable rented homes and affordable homes to buy. Homes that are sold off will not be replaced under the “totally unworkable” proposals.

Helen Hayes, Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood and a town planner, agreed that new homes to buy should be built, “but we cannot be meeting the housing aspirations of one part of our community while deliberately ignoring the needs of another part entirely—that is what this bill does”.

Hayes continued by saying the bill lacks any vision for planning, “regarding it as simply a constraint to development”.

“Through a multitude of different measures, this bill will take power away from our local communities, while also removing vital checks on the quality and sustainability of development. Local authorities will be denied the opportunity to ensure that new development meets local need and to negotiate for community facilities and affordable housing,” Hayes said.

Concluding the reading, housing minister, Brandon Lewis, said: “We believe in having decisions made locally. The planning system should be driven by local people, for local people. That is why we want to facilitate speeding up and making easier, further neighbourhood planning. It is why we have invested £22.5 million in the neighbourhood planning support programme, with more than 1,600 plans going through the process at the moment.

“This bill is proof that we are a government of opportunity, choice and prosperity—a government empowering the “generation rent” of today to become the “generation buy” of tomorrow. I commend the government’s bill to the House.

The housing and planning bill passed its second reading with a majority of 91.

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