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  5. 24 February 2011
  6. Sustainable development presumption and levy for affordable housing mooted

Sustainable development presumption and levy for affordable housing mooted

The new “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, proposed as a key tenet of the new-look planning regime, may after all become part of the Government’s localism legislation, Decentralisation Minister Greg Clark has signalled.

The minister has also indicated that the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) might be used to help fund affordable housing schemes. Currently this is not the case.

The prospect of these moves surfaced during detailed consideration of the Localism Bill by the committee of MPs which is scrutinising the legislation clause by clause.

Originally the administration had argued that the presumption would not be on the face of the Bill but would be a centrepiece of the National Planning Framework.

However, Clark told MPs he was interested in a Labour amendment to clause 92 of the Bill which proposed a deadline for having an up-to-date development plan in place “after which a presumption in favour of sustainable development would apply”.

Clark said that approach chimed with Government policy. He said: “It is entirely consistent with the approach that we wanted: to send a signal that the presumption would apply and could not be held at bay by failure to produce a plan. I will reflect on that point and particularly the practicalities of introducing it.” He told the committee he would explain the Government’s stance at the Report stage of the Bill.

Earlier, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) had submitted evidence to the Commons Environmental Audit Committee which argued that “national planning policies are a powerful, and relatively flexible, means of sending signals about the way the system should operate, and provide scope to emphasise the sustainable development considerations that should infuse plans as well as individual planning decisions”.

DCLG said that “the intention to produce a single National Planning Policy Framework created an opportunity to integrate the presumption with wider messages about the pursuit of sustainable development through planning”.

Clark’s comments about the use of CIL revenue for affordable housing came when the committee considered clause 94 of the Bill which covered approval of charging schedules.

The minister said he had received representations suggesting that the provision of affordable housing might be a proper use of CIL.

He said: “It would provide a greater opportunity for revenue to flow into affordable housing if it were regarded as the infrastructure of a community, which in many respects, it is. I want to reflect on those representations and consider whether clarifying the definition in such a way would make things clearer and provide not only protection, but an increased opportunity for affordable housing.”

Roger Milne

24 February 2011