This month the UK Government is continuing its attempt to agree it’s proposed Housing and Planning Bill. Documents published at the end of April showed that after a third reading, the House of Lords rejected or requested amendments to 21 points in the Conservatives Bill. It is these points that will be discussed and debated in the House of Commons this month.
An updated and more useable planning system designed to help increase the pace at which residential construction can proceed is one of the corner stones of the Conservative party’s 2015 election Manifesto. More recent speeches and comments by the Government suggest it is a promise they are working hard to keep.
Of course, some planning reforms were made under the Coalition Government, including reduced costs for small builders and allowing communities a say in the development of their area. But, this latest Housing and Planning Bill has been designed to go further and make granting planning permission in certain places and situations much easier than it is currently.
The House of Lords completely disagreed with 13 of the 21 points raised in debate, however, the remaining eight may be passed, provided some changes to the original details are changed.
The Lords state in their key message outline that: “An effective democratically-led planning system is critical to good place-making that drives growth and prosperity and delivers the homes the country needs. In particular, we support amendments to the Bill which would enable local planning authorities to require affordable housing contributions from smaller developers.”
While the view that the Lords consider planning as being important to the UK’s economy, Prime Minister David Cameron and most of his Government are sure to be disappointed at the defeat of some of the points of the newly proposed Bill. The one detail that sticks out is the Government’s proposals regarding ‘pay-to-stay’. This is mainly targeting southern regions, in and around London, where a proportion of social housing is in or close to expensive areas that have significantly higher ‘market rates’ for rent.
It’s a sensitive debate, but the House of Lords has firmly rejected anything that will force sudden and steep increases in rents on lower-earners who live there. As this particular point has already been watered down by the Government, this latest defeat comes a blow to the Government.
The importance of the proposed new Housing and Planning bill cannot be understated, particularly as housing is one of the main policies that London mayoral candidates have also been campaigning on. However, the very fact that it is so important means many lawmakers in both houses won’t be willing to concede on points they think are necessary or unfair.
This latest round of debate follows the House of Lords third reading of the proposed Bill. Don’t expect it to be the last.