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The change would also apply to policies for affordable housing. In this critical area, the existing ability of the Mayor to make recommendations about the size, type and location of affordable housing in the capital will be strengthened by the requirement, which our proposals introduce, for the Housing Corporation to have regard to those recommendations. I hope that my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours will take some comfort from that important new requirement. It has been welcomed by the Housing Corporation as bringing together its
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Substituting guidance for recommendations would weaken the link, the role and the delivery system. There is another problem with the notion of guidance: the funding on which the Mayor would be advising is, and remains, government funding. For any outside body or individual to offer guidance is simply not appropriate. It would be particularly problematic in the case of that part of the regional housing pot which is allocated straight to the London boroughs without being ring-fenced. It could be taken to mean that conditions had been set for the use of that funding where that was not intended.
I welcome the explanation given by my noble friend Lady Ford about why that would weaken a situation which is clearly quite progressive regarding where the developers find themselves in terms of policy-making. The amendment weakens the overall strategy by requiring the boroughs not to,
The London boroughs are key partners in helping to design and deliver the London housing strategy. It would be absurd if their strategies were to undermine or contradict that. The requirement to be in general conformity with the London housing strategy gives more assurance that the Mayor and the boroughs will work more closely together. That does not mean a slavish adherence to what is in the London plan. The boroughs do not have to mirror the detail of the plan. It is not intended to override the legitimate discretion of each housing authority to take into account its local circumstances. When they are not in general conformity with the strategy, that means that there is an inconsistency or omission in them which would cause significant harm to the implementation of the Mayors strategy. It is quite right that local housing strategies reflect the different make-up and needs of the individual borough.
Amendment No. 89A, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, envisages a situation in which the Mayors strategy would adversely impact on the ability of London boroughs to carry out housing functions which are their responsibility but fall outside the scope of the London housing strategy. I understand where the noble Baroness is coming from but it is difficult to think of something which would be impacted by the London housing strategy yet would fall outside its scope. Therefore, Amendments Nos. 86B and 87ZA are not necessary. If the noble Baroness would provide me with examples that we could think about, I would be happy to look at them. In any case, the amendments are covered by the existing requirement on the Mayor to consult the London boroughs and the Corporation of London on the London housing strategy and revisions to it. I have a more fundamental difficulty, because that is a very general requirement. Amendment No 89A would encourage the sort of
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Amendments Nos. 86A and 87A, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, would require the Mayor to have regard to the impact of his housing strategy on the Corporation of London. I was interested to hear the figure of 9,000 residents in the City, which I did not know. We entirely agree that it is important that the Mayor consults the corporation, alongside all London boroughs, on his housing strategy before it becomes a statutory document. The fact that that is not in the Bill is not an omission, because it already exists. Subsection (2) of draft Clause 28 already amends the GLA Act 1999 to ensure that the Mayor must consult the Common Council of the Corporation of London on his strategy before it is published. I would be happy to confirm in writing to the noble Lord that the amendments are covered by existing provisions.
Amendments Nos. 76, 88 and 90 take a different direction again. They seek to remove the Secretary of States powers of direction which ensure that national priorities are reflected in the housing strategy, that it responds swiftly to changes and that it is produced in a timely manner. Amendment No. 76 would remove her ability to specify what the London housing strategy should contain; Amendment No. 88 would remove the requirement that the London housing strategy should be submitted to the Secretary of State and remove her ability to require changes that she would feel necessary; and Amendment No. 90 would make it impossible to ensure that the strategy was produced in a timely fashion. I have explained the relationship between housing in London and national housing in general, and the fact that half of the Housing Corporations funding is invested in the capital. Therefore, a power to intervene, should proposals look likely to undermine national policy or adversely affect regions adjoining Greater London, is important. For those reasons, I cannot accept the amendments.
However, I have some good news, which I have left until last. Amendment No. 87 seeks to add specific consultees to the face of the Bill. It already contains provisions requiring the Mayor to consult on the London housing strategy in line with arrangements for other London strategies provided for in the GLA Act 1999. Amendment No. 87 adds specific references to the Housing Corporation and,
We have sympathy with that amendment. It makes sense to consult practitioners on the practicality and delivery of the contents of the London housing strategy. Indeed, it is difficult to see how the Mayor could develop such a strategy without advice of that sort. Without making a commitment to take these proposals on board and without prejudice to similar proposals for other parts of the Bill, we are prepared to consider this amendment.
With that good news, which I suspect may be outweighed by the less good news in the rest of my
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Lord Jenkin of Roding: I shall wish to study what the noble Baroness said on my two amendments. I should add an extenuating factor, which I have discussed with the House authorities: the loop does not work well in this Room and I do not always hear exactly what the Minister has said. We will study her words and it may well be that my amendments are already covered by the statute, in which case I would accept what she has said. Thank you.
Lord Graham of Edmonton: I rise in the hope of strengthening the Ministers determination to tackle the scandal of the housing situation in London. A number of the amendments provide what I call wriggle room for those authorities which are disinclined to be as full-hearted about their responsibilities as I would wish them to be. The Minister and her colleagues must take it on board that, where it is quite clear, both from the intelligence that they are able to glean from face-to-face meetings and from information gained in other ways, that there is within a borough not just a reluctance but a misordering of priorities in responding to what is required, they should not hesitate to apply strictures of one kind or another.
I mentioned by way of illustration at Second Reading the visit to Enfield of Bob Mellish and Evelyn Dennington in 1965. There was a zealousness about at the time. Circumstances now are, of course, completely different from then, but there is no difference in the problems faced by a young family which is condemned, by virtue of the sale of council houses and the depletion of affordable housing in their borough, to live with impossible financial demands or grotty living accommodation. The family turns to somebody for assistance. In the first instance, it will be the council or the housing association, but ultimately the Government will carry the can, because local authorities will ignore, twist or re-order their priorities in such a way as to wring their hands and say that there is not much that they can do. There may not be much that they can do; in which case, somebody else should have the power to do it.
I therefore say to the Minister all power to your elbow, because I and other former constituency MPs in the Room know the utter depression that one feels when one is unable to help people who come to you for assistance as a last resort. While I greatly respect and value London Councils, with which I have an association, the Minister must recognise that there has to be a renaissance in the Governments determination to tackle the housing problem in London.
Baroness Andrews: I know that my noble friends track record in pursuing housing provision as a social good is second to none. The Bill should be seen in combination with the Governments other housing policies, which provide for responsible, sustainable growth, not least across the south-east, for increasing the proportion of social housing and for putting huge
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Lord Campbell-Savours: If a borough becomes awkward and decides that it wants to block affordable housing that the Mayor wants to introduce in it, what power will the Mayor have to make the borough comply? Will the Mayor be able to say, Look, youve got to comply with this? Or will the borough be able to raise two fingers and tell him where to get off?
Baroness Andrews: As I have said, the general conformity powers would initially come into play. If a borough is omitting or contradicting the London plan, it is our understanding that the judicial review process will be open to the Mayor. However, we do not believe that we will get to that point, because the powers in the Bill and the responsibilities allocated are so much clearer and there will be a shared understanding. If we reached the point of addressing the matter in the context of the Governments reform of planning through, for example, Planning Policy Statement 3, which relates to providing more family housing, looking at housing needs and providing more assistance for the boroughs to determine their needs, we would have failed.
Baroness Hanham: I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savourswho obviously has an axe to grind at the moment about one borough councilwill accept that there are many complications about housing in London. We accept that the housing strategy is required, but problems about the availability and price of land affect the provision of housing within London. Today, we have got rather lost on the provision of affordable housing. In my experience, councils are largely fulfilling the requirements laid down for them and the percentages that are required. My council certainly is. That is happening and people are taking care about that, but there is a big problem about the amount of land available in central London and its cost.
It goes on to the reasons why that is the case. If the Mayor regrets and is concerned about a particular application because it does not meet the density criteria that are laid down in a number of documents, what will he be able to do in these new conditions? As I understand it, he will be able to do very little. He will not be able to direct the local authority to comply with his housing density plan. If I am wrong, I can be corrected. It is critical because when we come to later amendments, I will be dealing with density, which is at the heart of the problem when it comes to affordable housing.
Baroness Andrews: I cannot comment on individual cases. We are talking about planning rather than housing. We can have a discussion on densities later. My understanding is that the Mayor cannot impose certain densities. I think it would be better if we were to address that when we come to the planning debate, and I can then talk about it in its context.
Baroness Hamwee: On that note, we come back from the sublime to the gorblimey. When we were discussing Amendment No. 89A, the Minister asked for examples. I will look for them, and if it is appropriate to take the matter further, I shall do so.
However, I shall ask her now about Amendment No. 87ZA, which she said was unnecessary because there is a provision in the Bill for consultation. Paragraph (b) of that amendment is most relevant here because it requires that the Mayor has regard to the effect of his proposals on local functions. As I read the Bill, the Mayor has to have regard to the effect on other regions and to the Secretary of States guidance. I wonder whether I can ask her to comment on that rather narrow, but possibly important, point now, or later, if that is easier.
Lord Hanningfield: I thank the Minister for that answer because it contained a lot of valuable stuff that we will have to analyse. I was pleased that she accepted the principle of Amendment No. 87. I shall make a few comments on some of the things that have been said.
The noble Baroness mentioned that it is not just London that was affected, although it was discussed a lot. Members of the Committee know that I represent an area just outside London, in Essex. I must tell the Committee that all the boroughs and counties around London have formed a unit that, at the moment, I am likely to chair, which will deal with the problems of London housing, London itself, the M25 and all the other associated matters. Because of the increased powers of the Mayor and with all the authorities around London, we feel that an all-party groupit may not be quite so all-party after last week; I have not worked that out yetwill be working together to deal with some of the problems.
I was pleased to hear the noble Baroness say that not only London is affected. There is also the Thames
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Much of the problem is that too much bureaucracy is being built into the whole system. I would say that, wouldnt I? The noble Baroness was not the Minister in charge when we dealt with the recent planning Bill, but we gather that there will be another such Bill. Planning permissions have virtually dried up because of local development frameworks and various other things. Generally, not many planning permissions are being given for housing anywhere. We are obviously resisting the number of houses that our area might be expected to take over the next 15 years, but building will dry up because not enough planning permissions are being given. Therefore, whether we are talking about London or the areas around London, in the next few years houses will become more expensive because, if the economy stays fairly strong, not enough will be built to meet demand due to the planning system. This situation desperately needs to be looked at.
I am afraid that I am going to be very critical here in relation to a local problem. We would have built some affordable housing in Basildon but I am afraid to tell the noble Baroness, Lady Ford, that English Partnerships has delayed it by five years because of the bureaucracy attached. I wrote to the Chancellor at the time that he was talking about affordable houses being built. I am all for affordable houses and will build as many as I can in Essex, provided we can reduce the amount of bureaucracy involved. That is what we are trying to do through some of these amendments. We believe that the Mayor must have a strategic plan and that boroughs should provide their share of affordable housing.
We are where we are after 10 years of a Labour Government, and, as a party, we are looking at how we can build more affordable houses in the future. This is an issue that concerns us all, whether we are talking about a London borough, the City of London, Greater London or all the areas around London. I was disappointed by some of the comments today because I think that we are more committed to building affordable housing than virtually anyone else. It is just a case of reducing the amount of bureaucracy, making the system simpler and getting the necessary planning permissions and the money. The road and school infrastructure costs are now around £20,000 per unit, and I am told that the costs of drainage and water and so on are also £20,000 a unit. So it costs £40,000 for one unit before the building starts, and getting the money for the infrastructure will become increasingly difficult.
As with a lot of the Thames Gateway, many of the houses that we are talking about will be built on the flood plain, and that will create difficult problems and
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I am sure that we will come back to this matter. We have a lot of comments to make and there will be further debate. I shall withdraw the amendment today but I am pleased that the Government are to accept Amendment No. 87. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Hanham: The powers granted to the Mayor by Clause 30 would allow him to direct changes to local development schemes proposed by the London boroughs. As with most of the planning provisions in the Bill, we are opposed to this measure, which we see as taking power away from local communities.
The strength of local development schemes is the individuals and bodies from a particular area who are the architect of its overall development. Decisions are taken by those with comprehension of the character and history of the surroundings. It puts development largely in the hands of those who live and work locally and have a grasp of particular needs, both residential and commercial. It also takes account of the consultation and involvement of the local communities within them.
There is certainly a fairly widespread belief that the Mayor cannot possibly always be well enough apprised of the particular circumstances to make a valid judgment on a scheme. I hasten to add that while I do not accuse anybody of incompetence, it is an inevitable side effect of the vast number of planning, development and housing decisions the Mayor takes on. It is best that strategies are devised not by the Mayor but by representatives directly elected by the people and those who will be most affected by the development. I am talking specifically about the Mayors ability to deal with local development schemes.
There is already a check on this as the Secretary of State is able to direct changes to the plan. Clause 30 would simply be further centralisation of development powers by allowing the Mayor the opportunity to write in changes. If there is sensible justification for allowing the Secretary of State such a power, that is not necessarily the case with the Mayor as it is more likely that he will want to promote his overall planning strategy.
We therefore oppose this provision affecting local development schemes. We believe that it will make the process more complicated by adding a new level of intervention. Local authorities should have the right to ensure that their local development schemes are adopted.
Lord Campbell-Savours: The position of the noble Baroness undermines what I regard as a critical part of the Bill. I want to go back to the Candy & Candy development which was, in the end, based on decisions taken by councillors in Westminster. It provides us with a very good example of why the Mayor should have more responsibilities in this areafar more than the Government are giving him.
Under the policy of the London plan, I understand that in the central activity zone, the affordable housing component in development, depending on the size of the development, is to be 30 per cent and, outside those areas, 50 per cent. It is quite simple to get round that. The 30 per cent in the Candy & Candy development turned into 11.8 per cent within the CAZ. That was because the flats built in the private part of the development were huge while those built in the affordable housing section of the development were minuscule. Whereas people in London imagine that 30 per cent of the developers development is accorded to social housing, it was 11.8 per cent in that development. I understand that that is also the case in other developments within the Westminster area and I presume that it is the same in other London boroughs. Let me explain the figures which lead me to that conclusion.
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