Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill now has a focus on planning

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLHUC) has announced its commitment to putting local communities at the forefront of housing planning, making sure that housing targets are not rigid but a starting point with new flexibilities to accommodate local circumstances.

Following consultations with MPs and stakeholders, the UK Government aims to empower local authorities to build the right number of homes in the appropriate styles and locations, while ensuring the necessary infrastructure is in place.

During the housing planning process, an advisable number of homes will be suggested, but it will not be mandatory. The decision-making on the actual number of homes to be built will be a collaborative effort between local authorities and their communities.

Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, stated that an upcoming National Planning Policy Framework prospectus, scheduled for consultation at the end of December 2022, will include changes to prevent the Planning Inspectorate from overriding sensible local decisions. This change aims to respect local constraints and concerns during the planning process.

While National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the Green Belt will continue to be protected through robust national and local planning policies, the focus will be on prioritising Brownfield land for development. A review will be conducted to determine how such sites can be best utilised.

In response to requests from MPs, Michael Gove MP has tasked the Competition and Markets Authority to conduct a market study on housebuilding to ensure a competitive market that benefits consumers.

To tackle slow build-out by developers, the Bill includes measures such as not penalising local authorities whose land has planning permission but is not being developed. Additionally, new financial penalties will be imposed on companies failing to deliver housing despite having planning approval, and councils will be given powers to refuse further planning permission to such companies.

Short-term lets 

Regarding short-term lets, the Bill already empowers councils to apply a council tax premium of up to 100% on empty and second homes. However, due to concerns about local residents being displaced by short-term lets, the UK Government will establish a registration scheme for these properties. Furthermore, they will consult on whether planning permission should be mandatory for new short-term lets, particularly in tourist hotspots.