SOCIAL housing has become an increasingly important component of the development market as the wider housing market has contracted, delegates to a key planning conference agreed. The event in Wansford, sponsored by Godmanchester-based planning consultants John Martin and Associates and Peterborough solicitors Hegartys, attracted more than 100 landowners, developers and fellow professionals. Although this year's conference, the seventh in the series, took place against a background of continued uncertainty throughout the UK economy, the message was a positive one for the future as delegates considered the implications of Government initiatives and emerging changes to policy that will affect the planning process, Martins said. The significance of providing affordable housing within new residential development has become increasingly important in today's economic climate where the level of new housing completions has reduced considerably. Dr Richard Fordham of Fordham Research, spoke on the importance of affordable housing in the housing market and its long term role. He challenged the basis on which many of the housing market assessments had been prepared and on which local planning authorities sought to justify the percentage of affordable housing sought in their areas. The funding of vital infrastructure associated with an increase in the scale of new development was explored by the second speaker, barrister Ian Dove QC. He questioned whether the proposed introduction of the Community Infrastructure Levy would provide a stronger and more certain system for the delivery of infrastructure than that currently provided through Section 106 agreements. With the finer details of its delivery still to emerge, Mr Dove thought the prospect of the CIL being introduced in the immediate future was slim. "From the feedback we have received, this has been one of our most successful Conferences thanks to the two high calibre speakers with their unique styles of presentation," said Martin Bagshaw of John Martin & Associates.