The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP
Communities secretary, Greg Clark, has tabled an amendment which says a planning application can be “determined……….to be processed if the applicant so chooses, not by that authority but by a designated person”.
In a Commons debate last night Mr Clark said the amendment would “test the benefits of introducing competition in the processing of planning applications”.
He added: “New clause 43 would give the secretary of state the power, by regulation, to introduce pilot schemes for competition in the processing of applications for planning permission. It will also give him the power to designate who participates in a pilot scheme.”
Mr Clark stressed the move is about “competition for the processing of applications” and not about planning decisions, which will remain with local authorities.
The Department for Communities and Local Government has not been able to confirm what types of bodies are likely to be classed as “designated persons” by the Secretary of State. The amendment said the government could designate alternative local planning authorities.The Rt Hon Clive Betts
Mr Betts raised concerns that the ‘designated person’ might be in a position to influence planning decisions. He said: “How an applicant engages with a planning officer can lead to an eventual decision on the application. Just because a committee may make the final decision and say yes or no, the idea that the process has no role to play in shaping that eventual final decision is fundamentally wrong.
He said: “This is a worrying proposal that could undermine the accountability of the planning process to local communities.”
In these pilot areas planning authorities could set their own fees but the Secretary of State can prevent the charging of fees if they are considered “excessive”, according to the amendments.
Steve Ingram, junior vice-president at the Planning Officers Society, said he was unsure how “contentious” planning applications could be dealt with by a person separate to the local planning authority.
He said: “If the developer picks a designated person to deal with an application for a highly contentious development with hundreds of people objecting and local politicians getting involved I’m not quite sure how that option would work in that environment.”
He added: “There may be questions, where it is politically contentious or locally contentious, you’re always going to be asked how independent that service is as indeed local authorities get challenged at the moment.”
The Rt Hon Brandon Lewis MP Minister for Housing
Not enough houses are being built in Britain, the Government's housing minister has admitted.
Brandon Lewis's comments came as he announced 13,000 new homes would be built across the country - a move made possible following a shift in planning rules that allow smaller builders to build more houses.
The 13,000 homes will be built on five sites in Dover, Chichester, Gosport, Cambridge and London.
They will be built by smaller builders, who have previously been prevented from undertaking such projects due to the often costly process of obtaining planning permission - something that is required if they want to get financial backing for building projects.
Instead, the Government will offer up public land with planning permission already in place to smaller builders looking at sites where up to 100 homes can be built. It includes sites for just three or four houses.
Until now, it has only been larger housebuilders who have the financial ability to develop sites - something that has led to half of all new builds built by just eight of the biggest house builders
Tuesday 5 January 2016 Meeting started at 2.34pm
Housing and Planning Bill (Programme) (No. 2)
8.47 pmThe Minister for Housing and Planning (Brandon Lewis): I beg to move,
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8.48 pmDr Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) (Lab): I rise to take real issue with the Government’s programming of the Bill. Not only did we have extraordinary cut-offs in Committee that at times made it difficult for the Opposition effectively to scrutinise the legislation, but we must ask why the Bill was brought back today when it had to be fitted in around four statements, meaning that we are starting the debate at this late hour. Why have the groupings been so oddly applied, meaning that little time is available for really contentious parts of the Bill? What I most take issue with is the huge amount of new clauses and amendments to the Bill that the Government tabled over the Christmas period. We are considering most of them this evening when seeking to determine what the changes mean for housing associations with regard to regulation and deregulation, and to large-scale systemic changes to our planning system. Most planning organisations and agencies have simply had no time to assess what these changes will mean for them or the planning system. Never in my experience of many Bills in this House have I witnessed 65 pages of Government new clauses and amendments being produced at the last minute for a Bill that is 145 pages long. That is simply appalling and means that there will be no proper scrutiny in this House of almost a third of the Bill. We wish to register our strong view that that is no way for legislation to be made, and the Government should do the honourable thing and reprogramme this debate.
8.49 pmSir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con): I do not think there would be any objection if the Government agreed to that, but we are in the situation we are in. The Bill totally misses out the necessary changes to leasehold and commonhold. Some years ago, the House passed a Bill to allow commonhold to come in. It has defects and we are going to be lumbered with more and more leaseholds being created—for over half of new homes. The second thing I object to is that we have not taken the easy opportunity of cutting out the forfeiture of people’s homes when there has been a little dispute over some charges. I hope that later on, perhaps in another place, if not on Report and Third Reading, the House will realise that the Government really need to get on and sort out the problems of leasehold that affect a very, very high number of property owners.
8.50 pmFiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): I am very unhappy about the programme motion, merely because of the time we are starting to debate it: 10 minutes to 9. This means that really important clauses will be considered after midnight, for example on whether there can be any priority for local people when it comes to purchasing of starter homes, which is included in new clause 57. There a number of really important issues which frankly I think our constituents, who are concerned about housing This House has modernised most of its procedures. In line with that, we should reject the programme motion. We should agree to proceed on the order of debate that we have agreed to. I am quite sure the usual channels could arrange that comfortably if the motion were to be defeated. We should defeat it and not have a debate on such important matters at 1 am. Question put. Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): As Mr Speaker informed the House on Monday 26 October, before a Report stage begins on a Bill, he will seek to identify in advance those changes made in Committee which he would expect to certify as relating only to England or only to England and Wales, together with At the end of the Report stage of a Bill, on its second day in this case, Mr Speaker is required to consider the Bill as amended on Report for certification. Before we get to that point, he will issue a further provisional certificate. As Mr Speaker informed the House on 26 October, he has accepted the advice of the Procedure Committee not, as a rule, to give reasons for decisions on certification during this experimental phase of the new regime. Anyone wishing to make representations to Mr Speaker prior to any decision should send them to the Clerk of Legislation. Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you can help me. Have you any idea or any clue what any of that meant—[Interruption.] Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Because there is noise in the Chamber, I cannot hear the hon. Gentleman’s point of order. Pete Wishart: I repeat my point of order. Have you any idea or any clue what any of that which you have just read out meant? Madam Deputy Speaker: Yes. I thought it was crystal clear and I deliberately announced it very slowly to ensure that all Members in the House had a chance to understand it. If the hon. Gentleman would like a tutorial, we are all available later—it is no problem.
Housing and Planning BillConsideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee
New Clause 1 Building Control Standards for Starter Homes ‘(1) The Secretary of State shall by regulations require all starter homes meeting the definition at section 2 to meet the requirements of this section. (2) The requirements are that— (a) he starter home complies with all the requirements of Building Regulations currently applicable to the dwelling at the time of its construction or adaptation; (b) the starter home has been inspected by a Building Control Body in compliance with the Building Control Performance Standards currently applicable at the time of its construction or adaptation; and Brought up, and read the First time. Mrs Maria Miller (Basingstoke) (Con): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time. Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: New clause 2—Duty to meet the resilience objective— ‘(1) The Secretary of State and planning authorities in exercising and performing the powers and functions conferred or imposed by the provisions in Part 1 (New homes in England) and Part 6 (Planning in England) of this Act shall exercise or perform them in the manner which he or they consider is best calculated to further the resilience objective at subsection (2). (2) The resilience objective is— (a) to secure the long-term resilience of housing developments as regards environmental pressures, population growth and changes in consumer behaviour, with particular regard to water supply management, sewerage management, flood risk mitigation and waste disposal, and (b) to secure steps for the purpose of meeting, in the long term, the need for sustainable homes and communities, including by promoting— (i) appropriate long-term planning and investment by relevant parties, and (ii) the taking of measures by the relevant parties to manage resource use in sustainable ways, to achieve sustainable management of water, and to increase resource efficiency so as to reduce pressure on the natural environment. (3) In this section, “relevant parties” includes— (a) relevant undertakers, including licence holders and authorised suppliers, as provided in the Gas Act 1986, the Electricity Act 1989 and the Water Industries Act 1991; and (b) individuals and bodies corporate who are seeking planning permission in order to build houses.” Amendment 31, in clause 1, page 1, line 6, after “promote”, insert Amendment 32, in page 1, line 7, at end insert Amendment 33, in page 1, line 12, leave out Amendment 34, in clause 2, page 1, line 15, at end insert— ‘( ) is not to be sold to buy-to-let investors”. Amendment 35, in page 1, line 15, at end insert— ‘( ) is built on under-used or unviable brownfield sites not currently identified for housing on public and private land, as determined by the local authority.” Amendment 37, in page 2, line 10, at end insert— “(d) lives or works locally, with the definition of local to be defined by the local authority or the Greater London Authority in London.” Amendment 38, in page 2, line 22, after “State”, insert Amendment 39, in page 2, line 25, at end insert— ‘(8A) The restrictions on resales and letting at open market value relating to first time buyer starter homes must be in perpetuity.” Amendment 1, in clause 3, page 2, line 28, after “starter homes” insert Amendment 110, in page 2, line 28, after “starter homes” insert Amendment 40, in page 2, line 28, at end insert Amendment 41, in clause 4, page 3, line 13, at end insert Amendment 42, in page 3, line 18, at end insert— Amendment 43, in clause 5, page 3, line 31, at end insert Amendment 44, in page 3, line 40, at end insert Amendment 45, page 4, line 1, leave out clause 6. Amendment 2, in clause 6, page 4, line 4, after “starter homes” insert Amendment 46, in clause 8, page 5, line 36, at end insert “and without unreasonable cost.” Mrs Miller: I am sure that new clause 1 will be well worth the wait. I take this opportunity to thank the Clerks of the House for their expert help in drafting the new clause. The new clause will ensure that the Bill does exactly what the Minister wants it to do. It will ensure that every starter home is top-quality and is inspected and built in accordance with existing house building quality processes and standards, and that the records that are already made at key points in the building process are available to new home owners in order to increase transparency and drive up the quality of the new homes in which the Government are investing. I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile) for his support, and in particular for his diligent chairmanship of the all-party parliamentary group for excellence in the built environment. In the APPG, we are working together on a formal inquiry into house-building standards, which involves a detailed evidence-led scrutiny of the problems that need to be dealt with. Victoria Borwick (Kensington) (Con): Will these homes also be disabled-accessible? I am a passionate believer in the importance of lifetime homes for communities and families, especially in view of debates that we have had and what we have already heard this evening. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that all possible ways of improving disabled accessibility will be considered? Mrs Miller: My hon. Friend has raised an important point, to which I am sure the Minister will respond later. One of the problems is that proposals for the construction of houses which might include disability accessibility are judged by the same group who made the proposals in the first place. There is, at the very least, some conflict of interest in the way in which the process currently works. Ensuring that enough homes are available is, rightly, a priority for the Government, and I applaud their commitment to helping to ensure that people have the security of owning their own homes. Hundreds of my constituents have already benefited from the help to buy scheme. I know that many of them keenly await the roll-out of the right to buy scheme, and will take careful note of anything that the Minister may say about it. Let me, at this point, thank him for his support for the new self-build scheme that was announced in my constituency just before the Christmas break. The Minister is clearly committed to ensuring that the new starter homes are of top quality. Those are not just warm words; the Minister has taken action. The design panel of which he has spoken at length during the Bill’s earlier stages will play a significant part in ensuring that the plans for starter homes are of the highest quality. My new clause would ensure that the top-quality plans that he rightly endorses are turned into top-quality buildings each and every time, and I hope that he will respond to it positively. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): No one wants to see jerry-built properties; we all want to see high-quality properties being built. However, will my right hon. Friend give some indication of the discussions that she has had with providers of starter homes about the risk that the building of extremely high-quality homes will lead to a diminution in the overall number of starter homes, and to a reduction in what might be called the conventional affordable supply that is intended to meet the needs specified in section 106? Mrs Miller: My right hon. Friend is right to suggest that there could be a trade-off in terms of quantity and quality, but I do not think that that should be used to disguise the need to ensure that every single house that is built reaches the standards that are already in place. My new clause does not ask for higher standards; it
9.15 pmMy right hon. Friend is right to raise the point, because at a time when we are seeing a significant increase in the demand for housing and the Government are attempting to ensure that more houses are built, we need to prevent further blocks from being put in the way. However, the Minister must acknowledge that the market for house buyers has changed. There are fewer local builders and more national brands. Indeed, over the last year, a mere eight companies were responsible for building half the new homes in the country. On a regional basis, at any one time the level of real competition between house builders is frankly non-existent. This is far from a perfect market, and the current system of quality oversight was put in place when the local reputation of a builder was critical to a purchaser: builders were as good as their last build. Times have changed, and now a buyer may have little or no choice, and little or no information to go on other than national advertising campaigns. National builders seldom employ their own plumbers, bricklayers and electricians, and use subcontractors in their place. This change in market conditions means it is right that there should be a change in the independent quality monitoring scheme that is in place so that those changes can be reflected in full. Rebecca Harris (Castle Point) (Con): On the point about restriction of choice and the rise of the big unit developers, does my right hon. Friend feel this might explain why we are not getting all the builds we need in the timely way we need, and that it may well not be in the interests of the big unit developers to build fast enough to stop the prices rising? Mrs Miller: My hon. Friend is right to raise that point, and I was very pleased to see the Minister, and I think the Prime Minister as well, underlining the importance of encouraging more small house builders to be involved, particularly in self-build schemes where they can increase the supply of housing far faster than some of the national builders. Good building plans are not enough; there needs to be a watertight process to ensure that at each stage every home is built to standard. Few who buy one of the 200,000 new starter homes that the Minister is talking about today will be expert house builders, plumbers or electricians, and by definition none will have purchased a house before. If these people were buying a second-hand house—one that somebody else had lived in before—most would be relying on the professional services of a surveyor. They would therefore be relying on a professional who would give their potential new home a structural health check before the sale was completed.
Britain is building again with the number of new homes up 25% in housing zones