UK

Flagship Bill ‘does little to reassure that levelling up is more than a slogan’

T

he Government’s flagship Bill aimed at spreading opportunity across the UK does “little to reassure” that levelling up is “more than a slogan”, ministers have been warned.

A cross-party group of MPs has written to Communities Secretary Greg Clark, telling him that the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill currently making its way through Parliament lacks detail.

The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Select Committee also expressed concern that the Bill will lead to local councils having less of a say over planning decisions in their own back yard, while central Government is given more power.

The Bill does little to reassure that levelling up will prove to be more than just a slogan and that we will have meaningful change in local communities across the country

The Labour chairman of the committee, Clive Betts, said: “In its current form, the Bill does little to reassure that levelling up will prove to be more than just a slogan and that we will have meaningful change in local communities across the country.

“In key areas, it is unclear how the Government intends to drive change and they are yet to commit to the spending that is necessary to level up the country.”

He added: “Our inquiry has focused on the planning provisions in the Bill, which can be described as loosely connected proposals to tinker with the current system, hopefully achieving some improvement.

“It has been difficult to conduct scrutiny due to a lot of the detail of the provisions having not yet been published.

“We were asked by the Secretary of State to give our view, and our advice is that more information is provided on what the Government’s intentions are, and that the Government states unambiguously that it is not seeking to centralise planning decisions.”

The Bill is aimed at reforming the planning system in England to make new housing developments more attractive, and to ensure developers fund new road links, schools, and surgeries.

There are also plans to give councils new powers to regenerate empty high streets, including through compulsory purchase of empty shops.

MPs warned Communities Secretary Greg Clark that the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill lacks detail (UK Parliament/PA) / PA Media

The Bill will also create a legal duty for the Government to measure the success of its levelling up agenda over the rest of the decade.

The committee was invited to write to Mr Clark with its thoughts on the Bill after he became Communities Secretary.

His predecessor, Michael Gove, was sacked by Boris Johnson after he privately urged the Prime Minister to resign.

In the letter, the committee questioned whether the Government’s commitment to building 300,000 homes a year is a guideline or a set target, and claimed to struggle with “the lack of detail contained within the Bill”.

The group of MPs also said the Government needs to “take action” to show it is not attempting to further centralise the planning system and allay fears expressed by local authorities.

The committee’s view is that the “main tool” to achieve levelling up should be “appropriate funding to those areas that need it most”.

But it added: “None of the provisions in the Bill will directly contribute to making progress towards achieving these missions – other than setting them. There is also no funding for levelling up associated with the Bill.”

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill underpins our ambition to spread opportunity and address inequality across the UK … Our planning reforms put local people in charge and communities will have a greater say in shaping the regeneration and development of their areas

A spokesman for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “We thank the committee for their work and will review their comments in detail.

“The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill underpins our ambition to spread opportunity and address inequality across the UK. This is backed by our £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund, which is delivering vital infrastructure for our much-loved communities.

“Our planning reforms put local people in charge and communities will have a greater say in shaping the regeneration and development of their areas.”

Councillor James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “Local government welcomes many of the planning principles laid out in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. These support plan-making and should provide a number of tools to help councils deliver better developments in their area.

“However, as the committee notes, there is much detail to be sorted. It is essential that for these proposals to be successful, that government works with councils on the further provisions and guidance to make a practical reality of the proposals.”

Related Articles

Back to top button