The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill will put people at the heart of the planning system
The defining mission of this government is to level up the country – to close the gap in productivity, health, income and opportunity – between different parts of the United Kingdom.
This mission is made all the more urgent in the face of cost of living pressures and the inequalities laid bare by the Covid pandemic.
In the Levelling Up White Paper the government set out how we will do this. The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill will put the legal foundations in place.
At the centre of our plan is the belief that local people and leaders should be able to make decisions for their communities. The bill will give local leaders the tools they need to regenerate their communities and restore local pride – with powers to shape their high streets, to fill empty shops and scrap regulations limiting outdoor dining. They will gain powers to increase council tax on second and empty homes, and empower their police force to make streets safe.
It’s also why the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which today reaches Second Reading, will put local people at the heart of the planning system in England.
The system pits communities against all-powerful developers in ‘us versus them’ standoffs
The planning system as it stands is slow and bureaucratic. Despite the huge progress we have already made in driving up housebuilding, all too often the system delivers the wrong homes – ugly, shoddily-built, identikit creations – in the wrong places, without the required infrastructure.
The system pits communities against all-powerful developers in “us versus them” standoffs – which only serve to undermine both public support for development and trust in local democratic decision-making.
Through the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill we will change this by ensuring new development is more beautiful, produces more local infrastructure, is shaped by local people’s democratic wishes, enriches the environment and happens with neighbourhoods and communities at the forefront.
We know we must see more homes built across the country for our friends, family members and neighbours that need them.
We want to see beautiful, well-designed homes across England and we will give councils and local people the ability to set clear expectations for what new development in their area looks like by making design codes mandatory.
As an MP, I know that providing the necessary infrastructure to accompany new housing developments has been a real concern for local people. Our new infrastructure levy will make sure that developers contribute their fair share to the local area so that the necessary schools, roads and GPs surgeries, are built to support the new members of the community living there.
We will make sure that quality new homes are built in the right places and that local protections are in place, for nature and the greenbelt, by making it easier and quicker for areas to produce and stick to their local plans. And we will make it easier for neighbourhoods to influence development in their area and will digitise many elements of the planning system, so that it is more accessible and engaging.
People across the country are passionate about protecting and enhancing their green spaces and biodiversity, and we will overhaul complex EU processes and introduce a system that champions and delivers better environmental outcomes.
We will also introduce “street votes,” a new tool that will allow residents to come together and proactively propose development they want to see on their street. For example, for every house to be allowed an additional storey - and then vote on that proposal.
These are the steps we are taking to take us towards our target of 300,000 new homes a year. This milestone is only achievable if we have the right homes in the right places.
Giving people the power to shape beautiful, green, connected new development, that supports the local economy and is itself supported by the right infrastructure and services, is a prime example of how we are empowering local people to revitalise our communities and level up the country.
Stuart Andrew is the Conservative MP for Pudsey and minister for housing.
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