Weston Hills developer says planning system is 'flawed' - but might be better than the alternative
A developer says the ‘flawed’ system of getting housebuilders to fund community infrastructure might well still be better than the alternative.
In recent weeks the national media has reported that the Government is considering scrapping ‘section 106’ of the 1990 Planning Act - the rule in which developers can agree to fund the likes of schools and doctors and build affordable homes.
These deals are often the subject of much debate by councillors in South Holland - and controversial among communities where houses are built.
Reports in the Daily Telegraph and The Times suggested Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove is considering replacing the system in which developers pay directly into an infrastructure fund instead - and then councils choose where to use this money themselves.
Ian Canham, chief executive of Weston Hills-based developer Broadgate Homes, said the current section 106 system is flawed - with deals often taking a long while to decide and very rarely still being relevant for the period a years it takes to actually build the houses.
At the moment, the system results in many attempts to change the terms of a section 106 deal after an agreement is made - a frustration for residents too.
However, Mr Canham said the idea of paying a flat fee - of say £4,000 a house - was known as a ‘rooftop tax’ and is something previous governments have shied away from.
He said the current system at least allows money to be allocated to specific infrastructure that will help residents in that location - whereas a pot of cash might sever the link between the homes and the area.
It also piles the pressure of building affordable homes - of which there is a shortage on South Holland - onto the council.
He said: “What you’re assuming there is that the local authority can source the building of affordable housing as cheap as a housebuilder can - which I don’t think they can.”
He added: “As often happens with the government there’s very little meat on the bones.
“Politics runs in a five year cycle and it takes ten years to for a change in planning to come through the system.”
Another issue with this current system - according to Mr Canham - is that it might end up with affordable homes being built in their own area, set apart from other developments, leading to segregation.
Mr Canham went onto say: “It doesn’t really matter what you earn and what lifestyle you can afford.
“We are all human beings and we should all be able to live next to each other.
“It’s not going to happen if it’s a case of ‘that’s the affordable estate’ and ‘that’s where the posh people live’.”
If agreed, the changes could be put forward for the upcoming Queen’s Speech, but Mr Canham doubts it will happen and suspects we will carry on with the same ‘section 106’ system.
He said: “It’s a flawed system but the reason why it sits there its because of all the flawed systems it’s probably the fairest.
“Does it work? Not really. Is it good? No. However, is there anything better?”