I, too, welcome my noble friend Lord Sikka and the noble Lord, Lord Lancaster, to this House and congratulate them both on their outstanding public service. I look forward to opportunities to share future debates and platforms with them.
Which local areas and regional governments would not rejoice in billions of pounds of housing investment and regeneration in their locality, unless, as is the purview of these statutory instruments, this lacked accountability and scrutiny from local councils and communities? I thank and agree with the noble Lord, Lord German, and other noble Lords. Many of us have repeatedly challenged, on countless occasions over these past few months, the necessity of integrating essential services, such as planning and housing matters, within the Covid emergency legislation remit—which is seriously questionable—while silencing and discarding voices without due process of scrutiny and oversight at the local level, oblivious to the needs of local communities, whose lives will be affected by these decisions.
The Royal Institute of British Architects, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Local Government Association, Friends of the Earth and the Royal Town Planning Institute have stated their deep misgivings about and objections to these emergency regulations, which conflict with the well-being of people, the environment and communities. Any new housing and planning strategies would be very welcome if these would immediately be the basis of mitigating chronic shortages of family housing, overcrowding and the lack of adequate independent housing for our elders and those living with disabilities. Any permitted development must absorb local demands from housing and community regeneration plans.
Nine in 10 applications are approved by local authorities while more than a million homes have yet to have a brick laid. Will the Minister mandate these developers to commence these as part of the regulations and impose a timeframe for immediate implementation and, if they do not, impose a fine or demand that they return the land at cost price so that social landlords, including local authorities, can utilise them for residents’ needs?
The Government stand accused of creating and approving a developers’ charter, but these criticisms have been dismissed as nonsense. I trust that the Minister will accept that there would not have been any scope for such criticism and questions had the Government not decided to bypass and disapply Section 106, which has provided, in some places and communities, significant benefits and gains. That would be even more the case had this Government stated unequivocally that permitted developments will form an integral part of local authorities’ planning process and work with social housing organisations hand in glove to resolve the decades-old quality-housing shortage, which, as the Minister is aware, has hugely impacted and hindered health protection during this emergency period.
Instead, the Government are asking this House to be complicit in persisting with further structures of social division and inequality and more concrete jungles. Why are we constantly ignoring lessons from our past? The developments of Bishopsgate and Canary Wharf are empty ghost towns today; neither delivered on promises of jobs for local people and community regeneration. There was significant outcry at the time, and the demands of grassroots campaigners for social justice and inclusive development for public scrutiny for a fairer settlement fell on deaf ears and boosted the bank balance of the big developers and the big boys’ support network. Residents living in their shadow put up with years of environmental and health pollution without an iota of benefit for their families. Of course, I should admit that hospitality sectors use low-pay and zero-hours contracted staff, who are definitely locally sourced.
What is evident in these regulations is that the new pledges for building back beautiful homes are certainly not communities’ aspiration for improved life chances and better housing for their families but draconian imposition by a Government determined to push through measures that continue to exclude fundamental rights of communities and residents’ voices in housing and other developments. I thank noble Lords, and I apologise for any errors.