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Hot Topic Highlight - Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

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What is today's blog about?

In this week’s blog we take a look at the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill that was introduced into Parliament on Wednesday 11th May 2022. The Bill is now slowly progressing through the different stages of parliament. Once the Bill is enacted, the changes that are set out in legislation will be accompanied by updates to regulations and policy.

The content of the bill has the potential to have significant effects in the sphere of planning and development matters and therefore this hot topic should be familiar to RICS practitioners and candidates.

You can read the full Levelling up Bill or a lengthy summary on the government website. There are several key points of interest for RICS members and APC candidates.

What is included in the new Bill?

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is substantial at over 300 pages long. It supports the Government’s manifesto commitment to ‘level up’ the United Kingdom. The Government’s objective is to reverse geographical disparities between different parts of the United Kingdom by spreading opportunity more equally.

The Bill contains 11 parts and 17 schedules. It makes a number of changes to local government, planning, and compulsory purchase existing legislation.

  • Part 1 establishes the concept of levelling-up missions and the framework in which they lie.

  • Part 2 deals with Local Democracy and Devolution in the form of combined county authorities and sets out provisions to further empower local leaders.

  • Part 3 makes changes to planning in relation to data, development plans, heritage, decision-making and enforcement.

  • Part 4 details the non-negotiable Infrastructure Levy which enables Local Authorities to raise money from developments to regenerate their areas through infrastructure.

  • Part 5 replaces the EU environmental assessment system with a new framework for Environmental Outcome Reports.

  • Part 6 deals with Development Corporations ensuring they have the powers and functions to deliver strategic development across England.

  • Part 7 amends the powers and procedures of Compulsory Purchase to clarify the powers available to Local Authorities and ensure pursuit of regeneration.

  • Part 8 contains provisions that deal with vacant commercial properties in town centres and high streets

  • Part 9 is concerned with information about dealings and interests in land and the making of this data public.

  • Part 10 details other provisions including pavement licensing, historic environment records and a review of governance of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

  • Part 11 contains the technical clauses related to the Bill, including Data protection, Crown application and power to make consequential provision.

What are the key planning system changes?

In this week’s blog we will focus on the proposals in relation to planning.

  • All local authorities will be required to have a design code in place covering their entire area acting as a framework for subsequent detailed design codes prepared for specific areas or sites led either by local authorities, neighbourhood plan groups or developers;

  • Section 106 agreements and CIL to be replaced with a new Infrastructure Levy. Local levy rates and spending strategies will still be set locally in order to deliver infrastructure and the charge will be applied at the point of sale of the land at a rate applied above a minimum threshold. The Levy will be calculated on uplift in value rather than floor space. For example, if build costs increase and property prices go down over time, the Levy payable would reduce to reflect that. But it will also work the opposite way, so that if a scheme grows in profit, the levy requirement would increase.

  • Local Plans to be given more weight by requiring applications to be determined in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations strongly indicate otherwise;

  • Local planning authorities to prepare one local plan, with the content limited to locally specific matters such as allocating land for development, detailing required infrastructure and setting out principles of good design. General policies on issues applying in most areas (such as general heritage protection) will be set out nationally and contained in a suite of National Development Management Policies, which will have the same weight as plans;

  • The use of more standardised and reusable data and a consolidated proposals map that will form part of the development plan;

  • Groups of authorities to produce Spatial Development Strategies to provide strategic planning policies for cross boundary issues;

  • Introduction of new Environmental Outcomes Reports replacing the EU processes of Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessments;

  • Introduction of a new, simplified neighbourhood planning tool – neighbourhood priorities statements providing communities with a simpler and more accessible way to set out their key priorities and preferences for their local areas;

  • Introduction of a new ‘street votes’ system to allow residents to propose development on their street and hold a vote on whether it should be given planning permission – providing a positive incentive for neighbours to consider the potential for development;

  • Simplified process for making non-substantial changes to planning permissions;

  • Strengthened protection for the historic environment so that designated heritage assets, such as registered parks and gardens, World Heritage Sites, protected wreck sites, scheduled ancient monuments and registered battlefields, have the same statutory protection in the planning system as listed buildings.

  • A planning fee increase of 35% for major applications and 25% for minor applications is proposed – that means an increase from £462 + VAT to £578 + VAT for most applications.

  • Removal of the ‘4 year rule’ for lawful use of a permanent building as a dwelling house. The period for enforcement action will be raised to 10 years in line with other forms of development.

What happens next?

On 8th June during the second reading of the Bill in the House of Commons the then Secretary of State for levelling up, Michael Gove, announced that a document outlining how the government intends to change national planning policy will be published in July 2022. This is still awaited.

Since this time Michael Gove has been sacked from the role and Greg Clark has been put in place as the new Secretary of State for Levelling Up. Changes in the conservative party leadership may inevitably lead to some further delay.

There will be further technical consultations into a number of matters such as the Infrastructure Levy and EIA changes. It remains to be seen how these varied proposals for change will be amended as the bill moves through parliament. The timetable for royal assent is not yet set but will likely be in 2024.

The topic remains very much one to watch and Property Elite will provide an update blog in due course!

How can we help?

Stay tuned for our next blog post to help build a better you.

N.b. Nothing in this article constitutes legal, professional or financial advice.


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