Influential think tank says new Housing and Planning Bill should be used to ‘regain initiative’ from Labour
The government should use its last session of parliament to free up planning rules in urban areas and remove the nutrient neutrality blockages currently holding up development, an influential think-tank has urged.
Right-leaning research body Policy Exchange, which was co-founded by the current housing secretary Michael Gove, said the government should use its remaining parliamentary time before the next general election to bring in a new Housing and Planning Bill designed to allow the government to “regain the initiative” on housing from Labour.
A report from the think tank on the Bills it hopes to see in the forthcoming Kings Speech said a Housing and Planning Bill should be brought forward to deliver up to 442,000 homes a year needed to clear the housing backlog.
It said the Bill should consist of a new “Urban right to build”, under which permission in principle would be granted within city limits to development proposals that are in accordance with design codes, building regulations, the local plan and other basic stipulations.
Other suggestions include enshrining the current presumption in favour of development for those areas without a plan in law, rather than policy, and a public land for housing programme.
It also suggests the bill includes measures to remove the nutrient neutrality blockage by allowing councils to better take into account mitigation measures, such as upgrading wate water treatment works, in giving permission for development.
Backing the report, former housing minister Sir Brandon Lewis said the proposals for a Housing and Planning Bill would “expedite the delivery of badly needed housing and infrastructure in a material way”.
“Adopting it would get the Government back on the front foot when it comes to perhaps the most significant public policy challenge facing our country today,” he said.
The call comes after Labour last week used its party conference to set out an ambitious agenda for housing expansion, including a commitment to build 1.5m new homes, a series of new towns and the ‘biggest affordable housing boost in a generation’.
Policy Exchange’s prescription for the government’s final year in power sets out 14 bills, including proposals for a Leaseholder Enfranchisement Bill, which would ban the future sale of homes on a leasehold basis, and relax the threshold for converting existing homes to commonhold to 50%.
The think-tank proposes a new housing and planning bill despite the fact the current Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB), which is largely focused on planning reform, is still making its way through parliament.
The government is intent on getting the Bill, which is due to bring in reforms to enforcement, the local plan-making process and national development management policies, enacted before the end of the current parliamentary session this month. Michael Gove has already said he intends to introduce stand-alone legislation to tackle the nutrient neutrality blockage, after plans to tack measure into the LURB were defeated in the Lords last month.