My Rt Hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communites (The Rt Hon. Michael Gove MP) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement:
The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill contains important powers to drive local growth, empower local leaders to regenerate their areas and ensure that everyone can share in the United Kingdom’s success. It underscores this government’s continuing commitment to Levelling Up and securing better outcomes for communities. Yesterday I tabled a number of government amendments which strengthen the Bill and deliver on our manifesto commitments.
Strengthening devolution within England is a key component of Levelling Up. The amendments clarify that there is no possibility of district councils in two tier authorities having their functions taken away from them and given to combined county authorities. The amendments also enhance powers for mayors to manage their key routes networks to increase transport connectivity, and will enable stronger partnership working between Police and Crime Commissioners and local government by removing a perceived barrier to Commissioners participating in local government committee meetings.
Levelling Up also means improving access to high quality and affordable homes across the country, and doing so in ways which meet the needs and expectations of local people. The planning reforms in the Bill will give communities more control over what is built, where it is built, and what new buildings look like, as well as greater assurance that the infrastructure needed will be provided. These reforms create stronger incentives to support development where it is needed.
The reforms are based on five key principles. First, delivering high quality and beautiful buildings, restoring a sense of community and pride in place. Second, enabling the right infrastructure to come forward, boosting productivity and spreading opportunities. Third, enhancing local democracy and engagement by empowering local leaders, increasing accountability and giving communities a stronger say over development. Fourth, fostering better environmental outcomes. And fifth, allowing neighbourhoods to shape their surroundings, empowering communities to restore local pride in place.
It is vital that the places we build are beautiful, durable and sustainable. I am already taking steps through the Bill to ensure that every local authority has a design code which can set high standards that reflect local views. National policy has also been strengthened to make clear that development which is not well designed should be refused. I will announce more details shortly about how the Office for Place - our new body which will uphold high aesthetic standards in architecture - will support authorities in this important work.
Development must also be accompanied by the infrastructure needed to support it. Alongside the proposals for a more streamlined and non-negotiable Infrastructure Levy which are already contained in the Bill, our amendments will introduce powers to allow piloting of community land auctions. These would give local planning authorities new powers to capture value from land when it is allocated for development, which can then be used to enhance local infrastructure and services.
Strengthening local democracy is central to Levelling Up, and local communities rightly expect that permissions which they have democratically approved should be delivered. The amendments which I have laid add to the tools which local planning authorities can use to monitor and challenge slow delivery: by requiring developers to report annually on build-out of housing permissions, and giving them the power to decide whether to entertain future applications made by developers who have previously failed to build out existing planning permissions.
I am also firmly committed to enhancing our natural environment while enabling sustainable growth – and will further update the House of my plans to do so in due course. We are also creating a power for the Secretary of State to give new charging powers to certain statutory consultees so that they have greater resources to engage more quickly with Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects.
We are giving local people more opportunity to shape their neighbourhoods by introducing an amendment setting out the full range of powers needed for street votes, giving residents the ability to vote for additional housing where they feel it is appropriate on their street. I have also tabled an amendment implementing a recommendation from Richard Bacon’s review into the self and custom build sector, removing an ambiguity around the statutory duty to permission land for self and custom built housing; providing further opportunities for those who wish to build or commission their own home, and for the small and medium sized builders who are often part of this process, enabling communities to deliver the homes they want.
Levelling up and restoring pride in place means we want to make communities feel safe where they live. That is why our commitment to repeal the Vagrancy Act has always been dependent on the simultaneous introduction of modern replacement legislation to ensure police and other agencies continue to have the powers they need to keep communities safe and protect vulnerable individuals. The responses to the consultation provide a useful basis to inform the shape of future replacement legislation, and we will publish the Government response to the consultation in due course. For now, we will remove the placeholder clause from the Bill and we will not be bringing forward replacement legislation in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. In the meantime, this Government has made the unprecedented commitment to end rough sleeping within this Parliament. We remain steadfastly committed to that goal.
Other amendments which have been laid make a number of technical improvements to the Bill. This includes making sure that development corporations can, where they are designated, take on certain supplementary planning functions where appropriate, so that their powers to drive regeneration and development are effective and up to date. The amendments also clarify the powers introducing High Street Rental Auctions, to make it harder for those landlords who are sitting on empty premises to avoid their property being subject to an auction, and make sure these powers can address the blight of empty high street shops. We will also make sure that regulations for the compulsory purchase regime in clause 150, which require authorities to comply with data standards, will be subject to the negative parliamentary procedure. The amendments also add a ‘pre-consolidation’ clause to the Bill. This technical measure will enable the future consolidation of over 40 different Acts relating to planning and compulsory purchase law, making it much easier to access and understand for all users of the system.
This Bill represents a significant opportunity to give local leaders new powers to reinvigorate their communities and spread opportunity across our country. I look forward to the further discussions which will take place as we take it forward.
This statement has also been made in the House of Commons