Mr Simon Hughes (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (LD) : Of course none of us wants stalled sites and there are many of them, but will the Secretary of State be helpful, as his Ministers have indicated, and ensure that we have a much more transparent check on what developers say is economically viable? Our experience on the south bank is that they say certain things are not economically viable. They then build the housing and flog it off at higher prices that were not revealed at the beginning.
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr Eric Pickles): Of course this is not going to be done on the basis of a developer’s word—developers will have to demonstrate clearly to an inspector that the current targets are uneconomic. I believe that we will get more social houses built because of this measure and I believe that we will have more affordable houses. We have put additional sums in, as my right hon. Friend will recall, and fairly soon the schemes will be going out to tender.
Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): I think that this is the best bit in the Bill. It is so obvious that we have to allow the developers and the council to decide what is affordable and realistic. It may be that in some cases all we can get built is houses for sale. What is wrong with that?
Mr Pickles: There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I am afraid that a strange municipal machismo has grown up—if one authority managed 40%, another would say, “Well we managed to negotiate 50%.” It is wholly unrealistic.
Mr Redwood: I welcome the wish to get on with sensible infrastructure development, and I see that there are provisions to speed up planning permissions for power stations. As EU carbon dioxide regulations will entail the closure of a lot of necessary power stations quite soon, how much quicker will things be under the new procedures? We need to get on with it.
Mr Pickles: The new procedures remove a lot of the old regulations, which have been superseded by time, and make it much easier for those providing power to adapt to modern conditions. Technologies have improved, and the new procedures will enable us to adapt to them.
Mr Redwood: Does the shadow Secretary of State agree that, given the weakness of the banks and the problems in the credit markets, section 106 deals will be far less generous than they were prior to the boom going bust?
Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) (Lab): Of course, and the fact that local authorities have been willing to renegotiate the section 106 affordable housing requirements is proof of that—[ Interruption. ] Well, lots of them have done so, and no doubt the planning Minister will tell us about those that have not.