Controversial legislation is first to take advantage of Tories’ overwhelming English majority
The Housing & Plannng Bill has received Royal Assent, bringing in controversial new rules that will allow developers to secure automatic permission for schemes on brownfield land.
The bill received assent, which means it is now law, despite suffering a series of defeats in the House of Lords.
Using the new English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) rules the government overturned a string of amendments voted by peers. The bill will now be in the Queen’s Speech next week.
Under EVEL, which was introduced following the Scottish independence referendum, legislation that only applies to England can only be voted on by English MPs.
Thanks to the Conservatives’ overwhelming majority of MPs in England, the government was able to railroad through the bill, the first to be passed under the EVEL rules.
The bill finally received assent yesterday after the House of Lords withdrew its last-ditch bid this week to reinsert five amendments which had been rejected by MPs.
The peers initially voted to back one of the five amendments, which would have allowed councils to keep any money raised from the sale of high-value council housing to fund replacement dwellings.
However former Homes and Community Agency chief executive Lord Kerslake, who moved the amendment, withdrew it following the vote.
The other four amendments included a bid to restore the zero-carbon housing standard and another that would have required sustainable drainage systems in new developments.
The House of Lords had already withdrawn its amendment to limit the scope of new “permission in principle” (PiP) rules.
Under these, automatic consent can be granted on brownfield sites which have already been zoned for development.
Peers introduced an amendment under which PiP would be limited to housing schemes, but this was rejected by the government majority in the House of Commons.
However the government amended the bill to clarify how long PiP will last for. If the PiP designation is allocated, such as in a local plan, it will last for five years. If it has been secured via an application by a developer, it will have to be implemented within three years.
Other provisions in the bill make permanent the temporary rules introduced in 2013 allowing office-to-resi conversions without the need for planning consent.
It also implements the government’s controversial moves to impose a duty on councils to provide “starter homes”.
The bill prompted furious protests, including a demonstration outside Parliament by Architects for Social Housing who said the bill had “not changed in any significant way since it was first read in the House of Commons on 13 October, 2015”.