New laws have come into force 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 become enshrined in law after the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill received Royal Assent yesterday (26 October). 

The Government 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 will ensure new development is built more beautifully, produces more local infrastructure, like GP surgeries, schools and transport links, is shaped by local people’s democratic wishes, enhances the environment, and creates neighbourhoods where people want to live and work.  

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.  

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.”

The Act 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.    

And 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 cements our commitment to 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 Government has so far invested £12.9 billion in levelling up projects across the UK – creating jobs, improving transport and protecting community spaces. 

The measures in the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Act will 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.

The Act will ensure the homes we need are built where they are needed in urban areas rather than concreting over the countryside, which is why the Act will enhance our national network of beautiful, nature-rich Protected Landscapes that can be enjoyed right across the country.

It also secures powers to tailor environmental assessment to better reflect the current pressures on the environment and meet the nation’s environmental priorities. This cuts burdensome EU-red tape which held up assessments.

The planning system already 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. 

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.

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