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Housebuilders aim at Section 106 rules in battle against red tape

Housebuilders are targeting changes to regulations including Section 106 agreements and the definition of affordable housing after being asked to help deregulate the sector.

Housing minister Grant Shapps last week pledged to introduce a Local Standards Framework to simplify housebuilding regulations.

He said the Building Regulations would form the bedrock of the new system, with the new framework simplifying other existing rules and allowing councils a choice of which ones to make builders adhere to.

The move came as he pledged to scrap proposed standards for houses built via Homes and Communities Agency funding, in a bid to save £8,000 a unit from average build costs.

Mr Shapps said: “I’ve sent out a call for action asking for your help in identifying other bits of red tape that I can rip up.

“Any red tape that impacts on development viability - be it national, local, voluntary, site-specific, or a general business requirement - is fair game.”

One delegate from a major housebuilder said there were plenty of areas to get stuck into.

“This is a great opportunity for the sector. There is a whole series of sites, especially in the Midlands and the North, which are not viable at the moment because of the cost of bringing them to the market.

“Regulations like Section 106 requirements and Life Time Homes have to be paid for out of the sale price of the unit and that makes a lot of sites not viable to build out.”

He suggested the move would save and create jobs as local councils realised that development would provide homes and work.

Another housebuilder said: “If implemented quickly it clearly will have an impact because wherever you are in the cycle you will have sites that aren’t viable to develop. This can only have a beneficial impact.”

Home Builders Federation director of external affairs John Slaughter set out his priorities.

“The big ticket items in terms of cost are Section 106 and the Community Infrastructure Levy so we need to make sure they are not set too high or asking for unreasonable objectives.

“We will need a good outcome on the definition of Zero Carbon and we need to look at the impact of affordable housing policy with the subsidies being sought from the private sector.”

He added: “There are a lot of other policy issues where there are concerns about regulation, price and risks. We are concerned about the implementation of the Water Management Act for dealing with surface water management and sewer arrangements. And we don’t want to see [Life Time Homes] become a national policy requirement.”

An industry group will be set up to review all standards that apply to the housebuilding industry.

Speaking at a National House-Building Council event last week, Mr Shapps said the Labour government’s housing and planning policy was having a “dangerous impact on the market”.

He said: “We need to get busy lifting the burden of unnecessary regulation and stultifying standards from the backs of the building industry.”

A review of Building Regulations is due soon and Mr Shapps said: “They are the right mechanism to set national minimum standards, and should remain to make sure buildings are safe and sustainable,” he said.

These will be supplemented by the Local Standards Framework.

“The principle is that a framework will be a defined menu of technically robust, costed standards from which local authorities or neighbourhoods would choose if they want to set additional standards in their local area.”

Companies have been invited to submit their views by the end of December.


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