Communities Secretary Eric Pickles told Inside Housing this week
that councils had "strangled an already declining housing market"
by insisting on unrealistic targets for affordable housing in new
This is of course the same argument - generalised to cover all
section 106 planning requirements, not just affordable housing -
that was used to justify the measures in the Growth and
Infrastructure Act passed last year allowing developers to apply
for relaxation of requirements they believed to be onerous.
But, in the two years since civil servants started work on the
provisions in that Act, the housing market has turned a corner and
land and house prices are rising sharply, particularly in
London. It is reasonable for local communities, and people in
housing need, to benefit from this upturn, not just developers
providing new housing for sale.
It is easily forgotten how significant planning obligations once
were in funding infrastructure and affordable housing. In
2008, planning obligations in s106 agreements were worth almost £5
billion and contributed to the provision of 30,000 new homes.
And there was little evidence of developer opposition to the
principle. This clearly reflects the buoyancy of the housing
market and the economy at that time, but that only helps to
underline the point that the shift in developer attitudes and
government policy by 2012 was about who should carry the blame and
pain for the collapse in the development market after
At the time, councils protested that that the government had
little evidence to show that unrealistic targets were responsible
for stalled sites, and sought to show that most councils had been
only too willing to renegotiate requirements to get developments
Now that market conditions are improving, it is time for the
pendulum to reverse its direction. Councils should be enabled
and encouraged to set planning requirements that ensure that
developers fund their fair share of infrastructure costs and