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Briefings

Member Briefing: Parliamentary ping-pong almost over: Housing & Planning Bill close to becoming law

Date: 11/05/16

Parliamentary ping-pong almost over: Housing & Planning Bill close to becoming law

Following more than a week of parliamentary back and forth between the Houses of Commons and Lords, the Housing and Planning Bill is now close to becoming law. In a session of the House of Lords yesterday, key areas of contention in relation to planning, Starter Homes and environmental regulation were overcome following Government compromises, several of which were actively promoted by the HBF in extensive discussions and briefing of Government and members of the House of Lords.

HBF considers the outcome on these issues to be the best possible for the industry, particularly with regard to carbon compliance and sustainable drainage. The amendments consistently put forward by Opposition peers could have had a detrimental impact on house builders’ ability to sustain recent increases in housing supply by imposing onerous regulations or introducing more uncertainty and delay in the planning process.  

The outstanding provision of the Bill on which the House of Lords has not yet agreed to yield to the will of the House of Commons, centres on the use of funds from Right to Buy sales. As the Bill relates directly to private sector developers in its provisions on planning, Starter Homes and other areas, it is now complete and will receive Royal Assent once the final issue is resolved. On Starter Homes, the outcome of the Technical Consultation to inform the all-important regulations should resolve the remaining areas of uncertainty. The consultation on issues such as the exact national requirement, the sales and lettings restriction period and exemptions to the requirement closes on 18 May.

Starter Homes

On Monday, the Lords amendment on Starter Homes was rejected with a majority of 83 (97 amongst English constituency MPs). The amendment would have given discretion to local authorities to determine which low cost home ownership products would be delivered as part of the Starter Home requirement.

Lord Kerslake re-tabled the amendment in the House of Lords last night but following extensive debate ‘reluctantly’ withdrew the amendment ceding to government arguments that the provision was fundamental to its manifesto commitment to deliver 200,000 Starter Homes.

The original intention of ministers therefore prevails. The Bill, when it becomes law will introduce the new Starter Homes requirement for most residential developments.

Neighbourhood right of appeal

On Monday evening, the Commons rejected the further amendment by the Lords to give neighbourhoods with plans in place the right to appeal applications for new housing. The House instead insisted on its previous amendment (97A) which requires planning authorities to take account of neighbourhood plan policies. This had been offered by Government as a compromise following a successful House of Lords amendment to give neighbourhoods the power to object to schemes granted planning consent by the LPA. As initially promoted by peers, this would have extended areas with emerging neighbourhood plans as well as those with plans in place.

Following the decision by the House of Commons, Baroness Parminter tabled a new amendment to introduce a ‘neighbourhood right to be heard’. Even in cases of neighbourhood plans still emerging, the planning authority would have been required to consult and where the decision of the council goes against the neighbourhood, the authority would be required to consult the Secretary of State. However, after accepting ministers’ desire to ensure that neighbourhood plans ‘enjoy primacy’, Baroness Parminter chose to withdraw the amendment.

The result is a compromise meaning that planning authority reports recommending planning approval will be required to contain information about the relevant neighbourhood plan.

Carbon compliance

When the House of Commons met to consider the Bill again on Monday, the House rejected the Lords amendment to introduce the carbon compliance standard in 2018 and replaced it with an amendment that will place a statutory obligation on government to review the policy, seeking evidence on costs of measures and the benefits in fuel bills and carbon savings. The Government’s amendment in lieu was passed with a majority of 87 (101 amongst English constituency MPs).

In moving the amendment in lieu and proposing the review, the minister stressed that the review will emphasise cost-effectiveness for both homeowners and home builders.

Baroness Parminter subsequently tabled a new amendment on Tuesday imposing a deadline of 12 months to make regulations introducing a requirement for all new homes to meet the carbon compliance standard from April 2018.

After a fraught debate amongst peers, Baroness Parminter pushed the amendment to a division in the House which was voted down by a majority of four. 

HBF engaged extensively with government ministers and Opposition peers to promote a review of these matters as a useful compromise that helps to highlight existing practice and identify opportunities for improvement.

The Bill will, therefore, place a duty on the Secretary of State to instigate a review of the minimum energy performance standards of new build housing. No timescales are set in statute for the review.

Sustainable drainage

Without the need for a division, the House of Commons rejected the Lords amendment on sustainable drainage systems (SuDS), agreeing to an amendment which places a statutory duty on government to review the policy, strengthened last year.

Baroness Parminter’s subsequent amendment attempted to strengthen the government’s commitment to a review. It would have forced government to conduct a review of current planning legislation and policies concerning sustainable drainage and also review the proportion of new developments in England that include SuDS. The amendment would also have imposed a deadline of 31 April 2017 for the publication of these reports.

After accepting that the current policy is still in its infancy and following assurances that the Government’s review would be conducted in a thorough manner, Baroness Parminter withdrew her amendment to the Bill.

Again, HBF engaged extensively with government ministers and Opposition peers to promote a review of these matters as a useful compromise that helps to highlight existing practice and identify opportunities for improvement.

When it becomes law, the legislation will place a duty on the Secretary of State to instigate a review of current practices and policy in relation to sustainable drainage systems. No timescales are set in statute for the review.

Brief timeline of the Bill to date

 

May 2015

‘Housing Bill’ outlined in the Queen’s Speech

October 2015

Housing and Planning Bill introduced in the House of Commons

November 2015

Line by line consideration of the Bill in Committee Stage begins

January 2016

Bill approved by House of Commons; passed to House of Lords

February 2016

House of Lords Committee Stage begins

April 2016

Bill, as amended by the Lords is passed back to the Commons

3 May 2016

‘Ping-pong’ begins: House of Commons rejects many of Lords’ amendments; Bill passed back to the Commons with some compromise provisions

4 May 2016

House of Lords reconsiders Bill; disagrees with several Commons amendments; passed back to the Commons

9 May 2016

House of Commons rejects some further amendments; proposes alternatives to others; Bill passed to Lords

10 May 2016

House of Lords accepts most of the compromise motions proposed by Government; Lords insist on one amendment; Bill passed back to the Commons

11 May 2016

Government to propose the rejection of Lords amendment on Right to Buy

12 May [TBC]

House of Lords expected to reconsider the Bill if Commons votes to reject Lords amendment on Right to Buy

Next steps

The one outstanding area of contention between the Government and the House of Lords, in relation to the Right to Buy, will be reconsidered in the House of Commons today. It is expected to return to the House of Lords tomorrow.

 

David O’Leary

Policy Director