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Section 106 to be used 'on even the smallest schemes'

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Councils will soon be empowered to use Section 106 agreements on all housing schemes - even the smallest private projects, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has decided.

The government wants local authorities to secure 'planning gains' from as many applications as they can, where currently it is restricted to developments with more than 25 residential units.

Regeneration minister Tony McNulty said the measure - expected in a reform of planning guidance Circular 698 later this year - will be used to increase social housing in areas where affordable homes are rare. He stressed that the change is needed because there are 'plenty of suburban councils' where Section 106 has little impact. 'I would like to see a situation where even the conversion of a pair of semi-detached houses results in local benefits, 'McNulty said.

However, the Peabody Trust's design director Dickon Robinson warned that the move would slow down small developments and potentially damage economic growth. 'People often underestimate how long and how expensive negotiating Section 106 can be, ' he said.

And Allford Hall Monaghan Morris partner Peter Morris agreed that the new regulations were concerning. 'This will frustrate developers and could make some sites unviable, ' he said. 'It could reduce the amount of work around for architects.'

Chairman of Harrow council's development control committee, Keith Burchell, welcomed the decision. He said that the reform would make a substantial difference to the suburbs. 'We get very few applications larger than the current threshold.

If they reform the system, all suburban councils could make many more planning gain demands on small-scale projects, ' Burchell added.

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