A new infrastructure bill and plans to build thousands of new homes were announced in the Queen’s Speech in today’s State Opening of Parliament. The plans are part of the coalition’s government’s legislative agenda which they hope to pass before the May 2015 General Election.
Cath Ranson, President of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) commenting on the proposed legislation said: “The RTPI welcomes moves by the Government to support home construction; infrastructure is a key issue in housing supply and needs government action.
“We particularly welcome changes to the NSIPs regime (Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects) where the Infrastructure Bill has simplified the process for making changes to Development Consent Orders.”
In the next session, the Government will:
- Provide development finance to support smaller builders to develop new homes across the country. The £525 million Builders’ Finance Fund will deliver up to 15,000 further homes on small sites over the course of its programme. The Government will also scale back the imposition of Section 106 levies on small-scale development.
- Introduce a £150 million repayable fund to support up to 10,000 new service plots for custom-build homes, as well as consulting on how to implement a new Right to Build to give custom-builders the right to land in their local area.
- Introduce the secondary legislation to allow for a locally supported garden city to be built in Ebbsfleet, backed by an Urban Development Corporation. A Locally-Led Garden Cities prospectus was also published in April, outlining the support Government will offer to other areas interested in new locally led Garden Cities. The Government is also rolling out two further programmes to provide infrastructure support for large-scale, locally supported schemes.
- Amend the approach to the discharge of planning conditions.
- Further amend secondary legislation on change of use of existing planning permissions.
The RTPI’s President said: “We are concerned that placing the whole onus of discharging planning conditions quickly on local authorities risks misunderstanding the role of (often governmental) bodies in the process. All parties to this process need to be expeditious.
“The RTPI is concerned that whilst economic growth is a valuable objective, further “flexibilities” around use of buildings could lead to unintended consequences such as housing in the wrong places.”
The new bill will make changes related to energy and transportation. Fracking firms will be able to run shale gas pipelines deep under private land without getting prior permission.
The Highways Agency will be turned from a quango into a government-owned company, while the process of applying for a development consent order (DCO) for building projects of national significance will be simplified and speeded up.
The RTPI’s President commenting on the infrastructure bill said: “Changes to the Highways Agency need to ensure that it plays its part in supporting growth in homes and jobs and supporting sustainable growth. The existence of independent bodies has not always been satisfactory in this regard. The RTPI is also already concerned that the relevant national policy statement is insufficient guidance for such an independent body.”
In addition, construction firms will be able to "offset" the carbon emissions of new homes after they have been built, to meet zero carbon standards due from 2016. This is a change from the current situation where from 2016 new homes should not create any carbon emissions.