Following recent rumours that the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is set to be axed, the Government has wasted no time in publicly rejecting these claims. The legislation was put before Parliament by the former Secretary of State Michael Gove, to deliver on reforming the planning system as promised in the Conservative’s 2019 manifesto whilst avoiding the wrath of Tory backbenchers, through largely incremental changes to England’s planning framework. Key components include the introduction of an infrastructure levy to replace Section 106 contributions, and the enforcement of mandatory design codes.
Throughout the Conservative leadership election, Liz Truss promised to boost homebuilding by cutting red tape and ripping up legacy EU nutrient neutrality regulations. However, given the tumultuous days that followed the Chancellor’s ‘Mini-Budget’, the unease among Tory MPs is palpable to say the least. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the Government will seek to further enflame division within the Party by scrapping Gove’s relatively inoffensive Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill and ram a highly transformative piece of legislation through Parliament, thus risking an open revolt on the backbenches.
It would appear that the Truss administration will instead opt to bring forward a second piece of planning legislation to accompany the Levelling Up Bill, in the form of a new ‘Planning and Infrastructure Bill’, which was alluded to by the Chancellor last week. It is thought that whilst the Levelling Up Bill will deal predominantly with the mechanics of the planning system itself, the Planning and Infrastructure Bill will be more focused on cutting regulations which the Prime Minister views as obstructive and anti-growth, with the intention of streamlining the planning application process. Ultimately, according to the Growth Plan which accompanied the Mini-Budget, this Bill will “unlock homeownership for a new generation by building more homes in the places people want to live and work and by getting Britain’s housing market moving”.
At this stage, the Government has not been particularly forthcoming regarding the specific contents of this so-called Planning and Infrastructure Bill and with the polls lurching dramatically against her, it remains to be seen whether the Prime Minister will get a chance to bring forward her plan at all.