Michael Gove’s suggestion of abolishing S106 and introducing an Infrastructure Levy is being debated extensively.
There are many issues to be considered, including levelling up, local democracy and what makes a scheme acceptable. However, I’d like to focus on the proposed switch from a ‘provision in kind’ model and the implications for affordable housing.
A new system requiring land acquisition could increase the costs of delivering affordable housing and further increase land prices. The promotion process does the opposite.
A local authority acquiring land needs expertise in planning, design and procurement. This expertise has to be bought-in – another cost for the levy.
Housebuilders are experts in construction with processes, designs, labour and supply chains providing purchasing power. This means that their construction costs will be lower than those of any local authority using a third-party contractor.
Development, even in a market with strong demand, is a risky business. A home building programme requires extensive expertise and resource. Few councils have the financial resources and risk appetite to do this, when pressures in social care and education are pressing.
The rumoured approach is difficult to reconcile with a system delivering homes. To say we’ll deliver more requires all of the aspects mentioned and countless others to be addressed.
My suggestions are that we better resource planning departments; implement the government’s proposal of S106 mediation; fund the unlocking of infrastructure; and speed up CPOs. This isn’t headline grabbing – but it is what‘s needed to deliver the housing we require.
Atam Verdi, chairman, AspinallVerdi