Amendment 261

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill - Committee (10th Day) – in the House of Lords at 7:45 pm on 20 April 2023.

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Baroness Taylor of Stevenage:

Moved by Baroness Taylor of Stevenage

261: Clause 104, page 135, line 13, at end insert— “(3A) But notwithstanding subsection (3) the completion notice deadline may be less than 12 months after the completion notice was served if the local planning authority are of the opinion that—(a) development has not taken place on the site for a prolonged period, (b) there is no reasonable prospect of development being completed within a reasonable period, and(c) it is in the public interest to issue an urgent completion notice.(3B) A completion notice may include requirements concerning the removal of any buildings or works authorised by the permission, or the discontinuance of any use of land so authorised, at the end of the completion period, and the carrying out of any works required for the reinstatement of land at the end of that period.”Member's explanatory statementThis amendment would enable the issuance of completion notices withdrawing planning permission with a deadline of less than 12 months when certain conditions are met, and enable completion notices to require that building works be removed from a site or a site be reinstated to its previous condition.

Photo of Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

My Lords, I rise to move my Amendment 261 and I am very pleased that government Amendment 261A is complementary to my amendment, or at least I hope that is the intention.

Across the country, communities and councils have found themselves in the incredibly frustrating situation where permissions are sought but sites stay empty, and development does not progress; the LGA estimates that sites with planning permission for over a million homes have not been developed. As well as unbuilt housing we also see employment sites not progressed, communities and local businesses left in limbo and local areas facing an uncertain future and unable to make further plans.

In its comments on proposed reforms to the planning system, the LGA said:

“It is disappointing that no tangible powers were brought forward in the Bill to enable councils to encourage developers to build-out. We would urge the Government as a matter of urgency to empower councils to take decisive action on this issue.”

Too often it is local government that gets the blame for not approving plans quickly enough, but the LGA points out that since 2010-11 over 2.8 million homes have been granted permission but only 1.6 million have been built. In fact, nine out of 10 planning applications have been approved by councils and most adhere to the strict time guidelines for approvals.

The LGA has called for the Government to charge developers full council tax for every unbuilt development when the original planning permission expires, and for it to be easier for councils to use compulsory purchase powers to acquire stalled housing sites or where developers do not build to a timescale agreed with the local authority.

Since the pandemic, this situation has deteriorated because of labour shortages and the inflationary rise in the cost of materials so, as well as developers who are simply holding on to land to cash in on land values, there are also many genuine cases where the viability of schemes has been eroded. The LGA’s housing spokesperson has said that,

“by giving councils the right powers to incentivise developers to get building once planning permission has been granted, we can go further and faster ... to deliver the reform needed to enable councils to tackle the housing crisis”.

Our amendment, which I hope is self-explanatory, would give councils the power to issue completion notices withdrawing planning permission with a deadline of less than 12 months and/or would enable completion notices to require that building works are removed from a site or a site be restored to its previous condition. We hope that even knowing that councils have this power will encourage faster build-out and ensure that our local authorities have a power to act where that does not happen.

We also support the very sensible Amendment 269, submitted by the noble Lord, Lord Best. Although local authorities have the power to specify numbers of affordable homes within large developments, they are not able to specify that these will be social homes. We absolutely support the provision of social homes in developments of mixed tenure; the best councils and developers are now building developments which in relation to quality of build and design are tenure blind, but this is far from universal. The introduction of a diversification strategy approach would ensure that the planning authority is able to consider whether the approach to affordable housing has taken adequate account of social housing. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 8:00, 20 April 2023

My Lords, I beg to move that the debate on this amendment be adjourned.

Debate on Amendment 261 adjourned.

House resumed.

House adjourned at 8.02 pm.