My Interventions in the debate on the Remaining Stages for the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): Can the Minister remind the House how the Government will stop developers gaming a local plan and getting permissions that are not within the local plan under some silly rule?

Lucy Frazer, Minister of State: This Bill and the proposals that we are bringing forward through the revised NPPF will do exactly that. At the moment, in 60% of areas, building is through speculative development, not where communities want it. We want to streamline the local plan process, get those plans in place, where communities want it, and then we can start and continue to build.

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): Does the hon. Member not understand that the whole point about more local determination is that the local community ultimately has to say, “This is all we can manage and we cannot be overridden”?

Clive Betts MP (Lab): Yes, I understand that, and that should be taken into account, as it can be at the local plan stage. The problem is that, if every local community decides that it does not want house building, we end up with not enough houses being built nationally. That is the simple reality of life. What I am saying is, yes, have the argument at the local plan stage, but all too often now, local plans get bogged down not with where the houses should be built or with the quality of the housing and the infrastructure, but with arguments over housing numbers, with developers and councils employing lawyers and consultants to argue with each other. That is what happens. If we can get agreement between the council and the Government and that is then accepted as the target for the way forward, that is a suitable way to do it, rather than the current endless debate and argument about numbers and calculations.

I want to mention one other amendment, on environmental outcomes. One of the biggest arguments at local level is often on the environmental impact of development. There is great concern among local communities about the environmental impact and the fact that, when developers commission an environmental report, it is commissioned by the developer and paid for by the developer. Communities are often suspicious that the report produces what the developer wants to hear, rather than what the actual environmental impact is for those communities. My amendment 105 is simple: in future, the developer should pay, but the local authority should commission. In that way, we make it absolutely clear that environmental outcome reports on individual developments are completely independent, and that local communities can trust them. That seems to be a sensible suggestion. I hope that the Minister will accept it and move it forward.

 

 

26 Comments

  1. Ed M
    December 14, 2022

    A major breakthrough has been announced by US scientists in the race to recreate nuclear fusion.
    Physicists have pursued the technology for decades as it promises a potential source of near-limitless clean energy. I’ve been banging on for ages on this site why we need to support the New Technology to meet all the serious demands of the future including FUEL.

    Fossil fuels isn’t just about polluting our cities where we live and work but more importantly that we’re not helped ransom to rogue states such as Russia for our fossil fuels. Above all, our government should be focusing on supporting the New Science to encourage the great High Tech companies to start up in the UK and all the extra revenue that means to our economy.

    We’ve got to get rid of the luddite philosophy that protection of fossil fuels is good. This is NOT proper Conservative economic policy. But rather a kind of red-neck approach to economics that is hopelessly out of date and inefficient.

    And the scientists won’t just be able to sort this problem out but all the major problems we face including global warming etc … But we do have to get our heads out of the sand a bit and support more the scientists instead of the lazy-thinking, fat-cigar-smoking economists on the one hand and the hysterical greenies on the other.

    1. Ralph Corderoy
      December 16, 2022

      Off topic. Should not have got past moderation. I’ve given up reading any further comments on this post because of this.

  2. Peter
    December 14, 2022

    ‘Does the hon. Member not understand that the whole point about more local determination is that the local community ultimately has to say, “This is all we can manage and we cannot be overridden”?’

    Councils have targets imposed on them from on high. Soon everywhere within commuting distance of London will look like Croydon.

    They are not listening.

    1. Nottingham Lad Himself
      December 14, 2022

      If there were real local determination, then the peoples of Scotland and of NI would have been able to negotiate their own Protocols with the European Union, and not have the ERG impose theirs on them.

      The same goes for London and for most of our great cities…

      1. Peter2
        December 15, 2022

        So then why not reduce it down to small towns or villages or just streets?

  3. Ian B
    December 14, 2022

    Sir John

    I agree with the view you put forward in the question.

    Clive Betts, concern is still best served by local determination with the only compulsion being in that local housing needs are met locally. Were communities are required to absorb greater and greater population movements from other areas, it should still be a negotiation controlled locally on a ‘quid-pro-quo’ basis.

    An illustration here is of course Wokingham its population growth is double the national average and it appears to be from those moving to the area. The have moved to the area not because of work but because of Government housing expansion plans – they travel to work elsewhere. Yet Wokingham has not been able to expand its infrastructure or resources to meet the demand – hence Wokingham ‘tomorrows slums today’

    1. Mickey Taking
      December 14, 2022

      In 5 years it won’t be called leafy suburb, it will be the concrete jungle. People won’t risk going anywhere without a monthly revised street map to find a way out when lost.
      When we first came to Wokingham (1968/9), and Winnersh (Stones the Estate Agent) the agents gave out free street maps for us adventurers who might get lost in the tiny farmers’ fields hamlets. And after dark with no street lights you needed torches to walk anywhere.

    2. Berkshire Alan.
      December 14, 2022

      Ian
      Indeed, it is the density of housing, the narrow roads and small gardens (back yards, often completely in the shade) on these new estates which make them so unattractive, as well as being a parking nightmare.
      The so called Relief Roads to the North and South of Wokingham are just winding housing estate roads, totally unfit for lorries and other commercial vehicles, hence the reason Lorries still go through the Town Centre. Congestion will be even worse when they make Peach Street one lane only in one direction under the new Town Centre road proposals.

  4. Lifelogic
    December 14, 2022

    If “the developer should pay, but the local authority should commission” then you surely just get bias in the other direction. Also doubtless the fees will go up hugely as no control on them pushing up housing costs and deterring house building even further. This on top of the very stamp duty, OTT green building regs, vast over taxation of landlords/tenants, social housing rules (why should some people get cheaper housing paid for by other struggling to buy their own house), large planning costs…

    More houses or fewer people is what is needed or a mix of both.

    10.7% inflation it seems well done the money printers currency debasers Mr Sunak and Bailey at the BoE and the pushers of the Net Zero insanity.

  5. turboterrier
    December 14, 2022

    The number of properties obviously impact on the environment but does that take into account the extra traffic, utilities including sewerage and its treatment, the minor and major infrastructure to avoid creating bottlenecks and grid lock?
    That is before consideration is given to doctors, dentists, schools, policing and other emergency services do not even start thinking about leisure centres and areas for safe child play.

    1. glen cullen
      December 14, 2022

      Here’s the madness
      ‘’ In 2020, the number of vacant homes in England increased for a fifth year in a row. There were close to 666,000 vacant housing units in England, of which over 268,000 were long-term vacant.’’ https://www.statista.com/statistics/755383/all-vacant-dwellings-england-by-type/

      1. a-tracy
        December 14, 2022

        Some of that vacant property is caused by a failure of the State machine. Two years a flat sale tied up in probate. First sale fell through. All the time accruing costs in Management Fees etc. Very simple basic estate with a solicitor drawn will less than £200,000 in total with the sale of the property. Ridiculous.

  6. glen cullen
    December 14, 2022

    All I got from that respondents narrative is that the peoples (local communities) views are secondary

  7. Bloke
    December 14, 2022

    Clive Betts states: ‘if every local community decides that it does not want house building’ as a problem for not enough houses being built.

    However, if every local community does not want more building, where is the need?

    1. Mickey Taking
      December 14, 2022

      answer – within short distance from Dover?

  8. acorn
    December 14, 2022

    It is classic to find that when new private housing is completed and occupied, the new owners set up a residents association to stop more housebuilding! Leaving the decision to the local nimbies means nothing would get built.

    Replacing Council Tax and Business Rates with a well designed Land Value Tax, containing planning capital gain and revenue elements would be good.

    1. Berkshire Alan
      December 14, 2022

      Acorn
      So the old aged granny living on her own with a simple state pension (and perhaps a few benefits), pays the increased value with what exactly.
      What do renters pay, given they own nothing, but perhaps an expensive car, and/or perhaps go on exotic holidays ?
      The sensible solution was the poll tax scheme, where everyone paid the same for the use of the communities facilities, used or not.

      1. acorn
        December 15, 2022

        You already pay Poll Tax, it’s half your Council Tax. That’s why you get 25% off for single occupancy. Because the original poll tax of 1990, that replaced domestic rates, was a vote loser and withdrawn in 1993.

        1. Berkshire Alan
          December 17, 2022

          acorn
          Council tax is simply based on House valuations, nothing else.
          What has a house valuation got to do with the cost of education, policing, street lights, rubbish collection, Country parks, leisure facilities, road repairs, libraries, Social care, etc etc.
          Why not simply charge each adult resident the same rate for living in the same area, so much more simple and it would perhaps engage more people with an awareness of Council expenditure and value for money.

    2. dixie
      December 15, 2022

      As far as I can see LVT is merely a left wing ruse to steal cash from people by inventing false and inflated “value” with the goal of forcing people away from private property ownership.

      1. Peter2
        December 15, 2022

        You are right Dixie.

  9. Mickey Taking
    December 14, 2022

    Just how many local communities actually want housebuilding? Mr Betts is correct – no they wouldn’t, and it is this Government that for its whole 12 years has ridden roughshod whenever a LocalPlan doesn’t exist or is out of date. It has caused panic to get a Plan produced to ward off indiscriminate Planning applications backed by the financial clout of Developers. So we return inevitably to the need for thousands of box houses being built in record timescales to meet ‘demand’ which is fed by 1,100,000 newcomers to the country every year. The reaction to this over-population and hopeless attempts to meet the needs of housing, schooling, health, transport, benefits etc is that almost 500,000 citizens emigrate to escape the desperate situations we all encounter every day of our lives.
    Levelling down is more appropriate.

  10. margaret
    December 14, 2022

    Why can’t people simply understand …… it wasn’t a complex philosophical problem.. it wasn’t comprehension with an antithetical sub text.. god knows why people go into opposite think!

  11. a-tracy
    December 14, 2022

    There is a big difference between what happens in wealthy areas and what happens in poor areas.

    In wealthy areas, they get a new road layout, nicely planted up well thought out roundabouts, solar panels on the roofs of the houses, a large grass area at the front and an attractively planted estate. Other nearby new estates got Cycle lanes. A brand new eco-school, new college classrooms, and flowers planted. A clock tower was built that gets decorated every Christmas, ho ho ho.

    In poor areas, they get anything cheap the builder wants to do, as part of the deal cheap crappy terraced houses (sorry affordable housing) built on the messy edge of the project, usually where the land is known to flood or right next to the edge of a busy road, cheap bricks painted over white and an 8ft wall shielding it from the road but just ugly! No thought to attractive fencing, we got an 8ft industrial metal spike fence that’s now been reduced to about 4ft because of local pressure. It is still not good enough right on the main entrance! No lovely green shrubs viewed from the main roadside, overgrown grass and muddy pavements full of road debris, two ugly pumping station buildings in the town with large yellow signs on saying dangerous and a dirty pond that nearly overflowed last winter! No desire to demand friendly low green fencing with planting around it, walking paths, cycle lanes, and a poorly planned road layout that people warned giving the new estate access and egress priority would affect two other estates on the same road and the main route out of town, no one listened no one cares.

    It’s not the new housing I’m fed up with, it is the lack of local accountability. The nicest parts of town are the parkland and grasslands attached to the council estates, the problem is they’re full of broken glass, stolen cobbles, litter, and a terrible shopping centre run by the housing association and left to go to rack and ruin. They have more of this beautification than the private estates but no-one to look after it.

  12. a-tracy
    December 14, 2022

    Thousands of new homes, not much outcry locally, even though there is nothing in Town for 35,000 people! No Cinema, theatre with regular shows, only a couple of Indian restaurants, but keep on building.

    One estate built on an old failing high school. Now not enough places in the town at the only high school, all predictable, all could have been sorted by the builders, adding new classrooms, a bigger canteen, more toilets but no.

    An old building on the High Street was left to go to waste and vandalised for years. Why weren’t the builders that are making a fortune from town expansion expected to do the buildings up? New windows, a sandblast clean, just poor asset management of facilities donated to the town. The large building next door is also dilapidated. Nearly 300 new homes are being built in the playing field behind this other council-owned dilapidated wreck. I went to a college course there once, it looks like an old school inside. I don’t know what is planned for it and going online all the links to find out from the local plan don’t work. So we get all the rabbit warren houses so the nearby posher towns can have their plush little estates with few affordable homes (and who gets first dibs on those homes?)

  13. R.Grange
    December 14, 2022

    More weaselly words from the expert practitioners, HMG. Betts says: ‘If we can get agreement between the council and the Government and that is then accepted as the target for the way forward, that is a suitable way to do it, rather than the current endless debate and argument about numbers and calculations.’ There is debate and argument about numbers because the government has imposed those numbers. Is Betts going to come clean and say the government will no longer impose numbers? Unless he does, it’s not clear how to ‘get agreement’ between councils and the government. What will there be to agree about, after all, other than the government’s targets?

Comments are closed.