New laws which will speed up planning, build homes, and level up have come into effect after receiving Royal Assent last week.
The Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, which became law on 26 October 2023, will 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.
It comes as the government seeks to meet its manifesto commitment to deliver one million homes over this Parliament. It also serves as a key component in the Housing Secretary’s long-term plan for housing, which was announced in July and focusses on building the right homes in the right places.
The Act will deliver new developments with more local infrastructure
According to the government, the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act ‘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’.
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.
To protect the environment, the Act will ensure homes are delivered where they are needed in urban areas, so as to safeguard the UK’s natural landscapes.
Further powers to tailor environmental assessment to better reflect the current pressures on the environment will help to meet the nation’s environmental priorities.
Highstreets will undergo transformations through new council powers
Through the Act, councils will be given the powers to work directly with landlords to utilise empty buildings with local businesses and community groups, revitalising empty highstreets.
Furthermore, relaxed rules to enable cafés to create outdoor seating areas during the pandemic will become permanent, allowing local hospitality businesses to make this feature a permanent fixture on the hight street with the aim of improving business.
The Act also strengthens devolution and enables every area of England that wants one to have a devolution deal by 2030.
To date, the government has invested £12.9 billion in levelling up projects across the UK, and measures under the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act will support local authorities’ transformation of local areas, complementing government investment in projects that will help regenerate left-behind areas.
Measures in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act will:
- Make 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.
- Require developers to deliver vital infrastructure, including schools, doctors surgeries and public services communities need.
- Give giving local councils the power to increase council tax on empty homes and reform compensation for compulsory purchase orders by removing ‘hope value’ where justified.
- Give communities updates on the progress of development and give councils the chance to consider slow build-out rates when approving planning.
- Give 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.
Victoria Hills, Royal Town Planning Institute Chief Executive, said: “This legislation brings our profession one step closer to delivering plans and decisions that will make places better.
“Government must now engage frequently with planners to ensure that new regulations and policy changes enabled by this Act work as intended to get more homes delivered, attract more investment for growth and level up our country.”