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Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill becomes Law

levelling up

New laws to speed up planning and building homes have come into force as the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill became law yesterday.

The Government contends that this new Act will creates new laws that will transform our town centres by giving councils the powers to work directly with landlords to bring empty buildings back into use by local businesses and community groups, breathing life back into empty high streets.    

 The Government has so far invested £12.9 billion in levelling up projects across the UK to create jobs, improve transport and protect community spaces. 

Levelling up

Introduced by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, headed by Secretary of State, Michael Gove, the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill aims to speed up the planning system, hold developers to account, cut bureaucracy, and encourage more councils to put in place plans to enable the building of new homes.  These measures have now become enshrined in law after the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill received Royal Assent. 

The Government claims it is on track to meet its manifesto commitment of delivering one million homes over this Parliament, and earlier this year the Housing Secretary set out his long-term plan for housing and how we build the right homes in the right places.

The Levelling-Up and Regeneration Act is at the heart of this long-term plan and Gove asserts that this will ensure new development is shaped by local people’s democratic wishes, enhances the environment, and creates neighbourhoods where people want to live and work. The Government claims that building more homes in areas most in need is a key part of levelling up, and the Act will also deliver further measures to support regeneration in left-behind communities.  

The planning system received a boost in the summer, with an additional £37.5 million for councils to bolster staffing – including a new £24 million to tackle backlogs, and £13.5 million as part of the long-term plan for housing that will upskill the sector with new planning super squads. 

Government commitments

The Government states tat after a temporary relaxation of rules on outdoor seating for cafes, pubs and restaurants during the pandemic, the Act will officially make this a permanent part of our high street – helping local hospitality businesses to thrive. The Act also supposedly demonstrates the Government’s support for addressing inequality through levelling up missions, which include strengthening devolution by ensuring every area in England that wants a devolution deal can have one by 2030. 

The measures in the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Act will therefore aim to support communities and local authorities to transform their local areas, complementing government investment in projects that will help regenerate left behind areas.  

Measures in the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Act will: 

  • Put local people at the heart of development – making it easier to put local plans in place and requiring design codes that set out where homes will be built and how they will look. These plans will deliver more homes in a way that works for communities.
  • Boost local services – requiring developers to deliver vital infrastructure. This will put an end to lifeless edge-of-town developments with no community assets and ensure developers deliver the schools, doctors surgeries and public services communities need and expect. Further details on these measures will be set out shortly.  
  • Rebalance the housing and land markets – giving local councils the power to increase council tax on empty homes and reforming compensation for compulsory purchase orders by removing ‘hope value’ where justified.  
  • Encourage developers to get building – giving communities updates on the progress of development and giving councils the chance to consider slow build-out rates when approving planning.
  • Bring high streets back to life – giving councils the powers to work directly with landlords to bring empty buildings back in to use by local businesses and community groups through high street rental auctions. It will also make it faster for local authorities to give hospitality businesses permission to use outdoor seating.

Priorities within the Act include ensuring homes are built in urban areas and tailoring environmental assessments to reflect current climate pressures.

The Government will publish its response to last December’s National Planning Policy Framework consultation in due course. This will set out how planning policies in England are expected to be applied to help deliver the right homes in the right places.

Responses

Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP said: 

“Our landmark Levelling-Up and Regeneration Act will deliver more homes for communities across the country and unleash levelling up in left-behind places.

“It will deliver revitalised high streets and town centres. A faster and less bureaucratic planning system with developers held to account. More beautiful homes built alongside GP surgeries, schools and transport links, and environmental enhancement. Communities taking back control of their future with new powers to shape their local area. And our long-term levelling up missions enshrined in law.

“This Act delivers on the people’s priorities, creating new jobs, new opportunities and a brighter future for the UK.”

Curia’s Levelling Up Commission

The Levelling Up Commission is considering how the valuable aims of the levelling up agenda can be achieved from the perspective of local and regional government, as well as service providers across all four areas of public policy detailed below. All too often, levelling up is being done ‘to and for’ communities, rather than in partnership. The Commission intends to ensure this is led locally.

To engage with each issue in-depth, a conceptual understanding of the framework at hand is warranted. As such, the Commission defines levelling up as:

“The process of extending opportunities, improving wellbeing and reducing inequalities to empower citizens across the UK, through reducing disparity in resources and access to services. It involves concerted effort to bridge the gap between different regions and communities, with the ultimate goal of creating a more equitable and prosperous society.”

In particular, the Commission will consider how improved public service and infrastructural provisions can help to drive down regional inequalities across England. Through a series of inquiry sessions, written submissions, regional sprints and quantitative data analysis, the Commission will set out a series of recommendations, and an accompanying implementation plan to consider how regional inequalities can be reduced from the perspective of public service design and provision in four key areas:

  • Health and social care
  • Education, skills and training
  • Housing and homelessness
  • Criminal justice and rehabilitation

The Commissioners of the Levelling Up Commission include:

  • Hilary Spencer (Chief Executive of the Ambition Institute and former Director of the Government Equalities Office)
  • Jeffrey Matsu (Chief Economist at CIPFA)
  • Neil Carmichael (Former Chair of the Education Select Committee)
  • Janet Budd (Chief Executive of the NHS Transformation Unit, NHS Midlands and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit)
  • George Coxon (Director and Owner of Classic Care Homes)
  • Lara Newman (Chief Executive of LocatED)
  • Anita Dockley (Research Director at the Howard League for Penal Reform)
  • Lord Denis Stevenson (Crossbench per and founder of MQ: Transforming Mental Health)

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