The Queen’s Speech – what it means for homeowners
As the Queen's Speech and the government sets out its agenda for the year ahead, we look at the impact on homeowners
May 13, 2021
4 minute read
The biggest shake up to the planning system in more than 70 years was revealed in the Queen’s Speech. The Planning Bill aim is to simplify planning for housing so that homes and infrastructure can be delivered more quickly.
It comes as the government aims to build 300,000 new homes each year. This is much more than the 192,725 homes currently being built.
The bill will extend to the whole of the UK however the majority of changes will only apply to England.
However, the bill looks set to be contentious. The Times has awarded it a ‘Controversy Rating’ of 5* – out of 5 as it would ‘remove the power from local planning authorities to turn down housing developments if they meet set standards and force local authorities to set new zones for housing’. It also says the PM is already facing opposition from his own MPs, who fear it could allow big new developments in their areas against the will of local people.
Traffic light system for planning
If approved, a new traffic light system will be introduced which will see areas divided up by local councils into areas designated for ‘growth’, ‘protection’ or ‘renewal’. In growth areas, automatic outline planning permission will be granted for applications for new homes, shops, offices, schools and hospitals as long as they meet local planning rules.
In protection and renewal zones, development will be more restricted.
Other key changes
- The proposed changes also include moving away from a document-based planning system to a digital and map-based service. It’s hoped this will encourage residents to be more engaged with the development of their local area rather than opposing individual developments
- The government is also aiming to change local plans so that they provide more certainty about the design and type of development permitted.
- The bill also aims to use ‘post-Brexit freedoms to simplify and enhance the framework for environmental assessments for developments’.
A mixed response
Unsurprisingly, the announcement has divided opinion. The Royal Town Planning Institute Chief Executive Victoria Hills said, ‘We strongly welcome the greater certainty for development in “Growth” zones, which will ensure homes can be built in areas where they are badly needed. ‘Zoning for growth must be combined with active support to see projects through, with masterplanning and specialist proactive teams. Government has a chance to be truly ambitious here and deliver beautiful, healthy and well-connected green development.’
However, Tom Fyans, campaigns and policy director of the Campaign to Protect Rural England said the Planning Bill ‘risks creating a free-for-all for development’. He said, ‘We know from painful experience that, without the right checks and balances in the planning process, developments can lead to a huge and unnecessary loss of countryside while doing nothing to tackle the affordable housing crisis or level up.’
Need for engagement
We welcome the move to a digital process and the hope this will better engage residents. In fact, research by HomeOwners Alliance found 8 in 10 UK residents would be more supportive of new homes being built in their local communities if developments are considerate of local needs.
And while rural communities are perceived to be more against new developments, our research found that isn’t the case. The proportion saying they would be more supportive of new homes is similar among rural communities (82%) and urban and town communities (84%) when developments address local priorities.
However, for rural communities, genuinely consulting local residents is more important for them than in other parts of the UK (rural 44% vs overall 39%).
Potentially a great move – but locals’ voices need to be heard
Paula Higgins, Chief Executive of the HomeOwners Alliance says, ‘We support measures to deliver more affordable new homes where it is needed. However, this should be no excuse not to work with locals to get the best development in their area.
‘The point is to build good quality housing that benefits the local communities as well as new infrastructure. Although we note there was no mention of ‘Infrastructure first’, which was outlined in the Conservative’s 2019 Manifesto which pledged to amend planning rules so that infrastructure such as schools and GP surgeries come before people move into new homes.
Leasehold Reform Bill
Soaring ground rent charges have been a serious issue for some homeowners, leaving some unable to sell their homes. With this Bill, the government proposes ‘to end the practice of ground rents for new leasehold properties’, other than a ‘peppercorn rent’ amount.
‘We support the ending of onerous ground rent on new build properties although that practice has been stamped out as lenders refused to lend in these cases,’ says Paula. ‘However, we are concerned that this is aimed specifically at new leases. What about current leaseholders?
Building Safety Bill
A new system for regulating the safety of high-rise buildings and inspecting construction sites will be set out in the Building Safety Bill.
Speaking of the Bill, the Queen told Parliament, ‘My ministers will establish in law a new Building Safety Regulator to ensure that the tragedies of the past are never repeated.’
The bill is expected to categorise a further 13,000 buildings as higher risk. And it will legislate for the introduction of the new Building Safety Regulator.
Also included in the Bill is the creation of a New Homes Ombudsman. However, as we reported in February, the New Homes Ombudsman will be appointed by the newly-launched New Homes Quality Board. While we are pleased to see the housebuilding industry taking the initiative to address the quality of new build homes, we have some concerns about an industry-led board.
The expected Renters Reform Bill didn’t materialise in the Queen’s speech. However, the Government announced its plans for a series of consultations and possible reforms. Renters will need to wait until the autumn when the Government said it would publish a White Paper detailing a reform package. Once these reforms have been considered by experts and stakeholders, the Government intends to bring forward legislation.
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