My Lords, I have an unstable connection so I may not be with you for very long. However, I welcome the noble Lords, Lord Sikka and Lord Lancaster, whose maiden speeches were excellent. Their characters shone through, and I look forward to meeting them both. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord German, on moving this Motion. He has reflected a lot of universal concerns, one of which he called the “balance of power”.
The Government’s White Paper proposes a total overhaul of the English planning system, which will require primary legislation, but they have now brought in these piecemeal regulations which themselves make huge changes to the planning system. They really should have brought them as part of primary legislation that could be fully considered, rather than rushing them through as secondary legislation.
“We will build environmentally friendly homes that will not need to be expensively retrofitted in the future, homes with green spaces and new parks at close hand, where tree lined streets are the norm and where neighbours are not strangers.”
Yet nothing in these regulations delivers on those green ambitions. The Government have missed a huge opportunity to require people to bring their homes up to modern high standards of energy efficiency and thermal comfort when adding new storeys to their home. Obviously, the best and most cost-effective time to do that is when other major works are being done—so it is absurd that the Government are not tying these two things together. They really must put green, carbon-neutral, planet-positive development at the heart of their plans—and at the moment they really are not.
I recognise that there is a green benefit to increasing housing density by adding new storeys to existing houses. It is better to use the footprint of an existing home to protect the green belt and nature, but—and it is a very big but—adding two storeys to many homes, particularly in a rural setting, will have a huge impact on the neighbours. Residents will be incredibly shocked and distraught if they suddenly find that they have a loss of amenity—of a view, of privacy or of sunlight. This will not go down well with people. Have the Government really thought it through? Are they prepared to let residents suffer as a result of this policy?