Examination of Witnesses

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:10 pm on 23rd June 2022.

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Dr Benwell:

Thank you, Chair. I have been expansive on other questions, so it is no problem.

I will make two points very quickly. First, it would be great if we could always preface “brownfield” with “low-biodiversity value”. My friends at Buglife would send a plague of spiders my way if I did not point out that sometimes brownfield can be really important for nature. That has a really important link through to localism, because it is often local communities—our brilliant heritage of amateur ecologists—who know about these things. It is really important for the planning system to keep being able to investigate and interrogate what is on individual sites.

It was welcome, in this version of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, to see the move away from the previous proposals in the planning White Paper, which would have taken a broadbrush zoning approach, taking away some of the granularity of local information. It is really important that we keep doing those site-based surveys and that, as we move to digitisation, for example, we do not do everything from a laptop computer and assume that there is nothing important there.

Quickly, on another aspect of devolution, on the environmental outcome reports, it is noteworthy that the outcomes can be set for the devolved nations as well, after consultation. I do not know anything about devolution politics, but it would be great if it can be clear that whatever is set by Westminster is a base, not a cap. If other countries wanted to move further and set bolder outcomes, it would be unfortunate if a new power that enables those things to be set from Westminster prevented Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland from being able to go further if they wanted to.