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Further consultation promised at second reading of Growth and Infrastructure Bill

What projects count as 'nationally significant developments' for the purposes of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill will be the subject of further Government consultation, Secretary of State Eric Pickles has told Parliament. 06 Nov 2012

Pickles addressed Parliament at the second reading of the Bill and responded to a question from Labour MP Nick Raynsford on which projects a new infrastructure fast-track planning regime would apply to.

Pickles said that there are "national policy statements" and that, in addition, the Government will consult on "where these should bite in".

The Bill sets out proposals for applications for nationally significant business and commercial projects to be brought under an infrastructure fast-track regime. This will allow an alternative process to decide nationally significant business and commercial projects within 12 months of the start of examination. Existing requirements to consult local communities will be retained, said Pickles.

The second reading of the Bill took place in Parliament yesterday. It had originally been scheduled for 30 October, but was postponed to make way for the Mental Health (Approval Functions) Bill.

The Bill also proposes plans to allow developers and local authorities to renegotiate commercially unviable section 106 agreements. Pickles said that these new powers will be used when negotiation is not already under way and that they would "send a clear message to all parties to get round the table and start negotiating now". Developers and local authorities should be "much more competition and market-oriented," he said.

Labour MP Grahame M. Morris asked Pickles to comment on the recent estimate by the National Housing Federation that the proposal would cost up to 35,000 affordable homes a year. Pickles said that such numbers were "fantasy figures". The Government has previously said that it estimates that around 10,000 planned affordable homes may not be built as a result of the proposals.

Pickles said that 41% of local authorities have already started negotiations. "We have found in the negotiations that, rather than have a 30% target, many authorities have dropped to 26%. Many have managed a little higher than that, but they have shown flexibility to get the whole process moving," he said. He also said that developers would have to "demonstrate clearly" to a planning inspector that current targets were uneconomic.