New Levelling-up and Regeneration Act – will it bring more new homes? by Carolyn Lord

New Levelling-up and Regeneration Act – will it bring more new homes? by Carolyn Lord

Open a newspaper or turn on the news and the urgent need for more family housing, and particularly affordable housing, is likely to come up. Political lines are being drawn as to the importance of unlocking house-building and as to where the obstacles lie. Changing the method of calculating and then removal of local housing targets can only have caused an overall slow-down. So too has the lack of recognition of the difficulties of developing brownfield sites, where the cost of clean-up and servicing often precludes the financial headroom to provide much, if any, affordable housing, or sometimes to build out any viable scheme at all despite planning permission being granted.

Successive governments over the last twenty years have brought in waves of new planning legislation to try to catalyse growth and new development, coupled with planning policy overhaul. The latest new planning legislation (26 October 2023) is the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 (LURA). The Government claims that the LURA 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”. Critics ask, will this get to the core of enabling more development to be delivered more quickly?

The LURA covers multiple areas of planning, compulsory purchase and local government matters. Most of its provisions have not been brought into force and further legislation is needed for the detail, but from this Boxing Day some new Regulations can be made regarding delivery of housing and land dealings.

There is also a longstanding promise of a revised National Planning Policy Framework, where consultation has taken place but the publication date is currently unknown.

New powers have been introduced which allow local councils to issue completion notices more readily for a development that is being built out at an ‘unreasonably slow’ pace or conditions can be imposed to oblige reports on progress. Significantly, councils may be able to take into account previous slow build-out or non-implementation of planning permissions by an applicant or connected person as a reason to refuse the grant of a later planning permission. The intention (through a stick approach rather than the proverbial carrot) is to encourage build out and keep a track of housing delivery numbers through new Commencement Notices and other reporting requirements.

Fundamentally, the planning system cannot oblige development to be undertaken just because there is a planning permission. Rather, the sanction is that planning permissions are time-limited and so if works don’t commence by a prescribed date then the whole permission ceases to have effect. Making completion notices easier to use by local councils could well mean that there are schemes left only partly completed because completion notices can’t and don’t guarantee the actual completion of development. On the other hand, the risk of loss of a hard-won and expensive planning permission may act as the reverse incentive that the Government intends.

Local plans are at the heart of the planning system because planning applications must be determined by planning committees or on appeal in accordance with the development plan for the area unless there are other planning considerations that outweigh those development plan policies. The LURA aims to speed up local plan-making and introduce local design codes with the aim of local communities getting more say and more certainty in development of their area.

At the same time, LURA proposes a potentially powerful new tool of National Development Management Policies (introduced after public consultation) where there is a strong presumption that these policies are as strong as Local Plan policies.

Overall, much of the legislative detail has been left until another day and the devil will be in that detail. Points of contention are likely to end up in the Planning Court, whilst many people may still be waiting for new homes.

To discuss the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 provisions further, please contact one of our planning specialists.

Disclaimer: Anything posted in this blog is for general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice on any general or specific matter.

About Clarion

Clarion’s construction team acts on behalf of clients in the public sector, developers, contractors, and sub-contractors supporting these clients in the use of JCT, NEC, FIDIC and PFI contracts, and more recently providing advice in relation to the Building Safety
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