HC Deb 03 February 1989 vol 146 cc433-4W
Mr. Boswell

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what advice he plans to give to planning authorities in rural areas as to whether they can properly take account of local needs for low-cost housing in drawing, up local plans and deciding planning applications; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Ridley

In preparing their local plans authorities must ensure that adequate provision is made, consistent with the structure plan, for housing demand of all kinds. As was made clear in circular 1/85, planning controls are concerned with the use of land rather than with the identity of the user. The question of who is to occupy premises for which permission is to be granted will normally be irrelevant.

I recognise, however, that in some rural areas there are genuine difficulties in securing an adequate supply of low-cost housing for local needs. In such areas, the need for low-cost housing and the existence of arrangements made by the developer, or between the developer and the landowner or the local authority, to ensure that new low-cost housing is made available for local needs could be material considerations which the authority would take into account in deciding whether to grant planning permission. Such considerations might be particularly relevant to the release of small sites within or adjoining existing villages which would not otherwise be allocated for housing.

Since planning conditions cannot normally be used to impose restrictions on tenure or occupancy, the planning authority would need to satisfy itself before granting planning permission that other secure arrangements to the effect would be made. Examples of such arrangements might be the involvement of a village trust or housing association with a suitable lettings policy; or covenants designed to give priority to first-time buyers from the locality; or an agreement between the planning authority and the developer under section 52 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971. It would be important for schemes to ensure that the benefits of low-cost provision pass not only to the initial occupants but to subsequent occupants as well.

Local plan policies should make it clear that the release of such sites to secure provision of low-cost housing for local needs will be additional to the provision made in the plan for general housing demand, recognising that particular local needs may justify the release of land that would not normally be allocated to meet general housing demand. It should be made clear that land allocated in the plan to meet general housing demand will not be confined to local needs only, and planning permission for such land should not be refused on the ground that the developers or landowners are not prepared to enter into arrangements. to secure provision for local needs.

The case for releasing additional land that would not normally receive planning permission for housing, in order to secure provision of low-cost housing for local needs, will be essentially a matter for local judgment. Where a planning authority refuses permission for such development, and the matter goes to appeal, I and my inspectors will bear in mind the essentially local nature of the decision, though each case will be considered on its merits.