The Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill received Royal Assent on Thursday 26th October 2023 and is now known as the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities announced in a press release on 26th October that the new laws would “speed up the planning system, hold developers to account, cut bureaucracy, and encourage more councils to put in place plans to enable the building of new homes.”

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill was first published in May 2022, since then, both parliamentary houses have deliberated its provisions, resulting in a number of amendments to the legislation.

Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP has said:

“Our landmark Levelling-Up and Regeneration Act will deliver more homes for communities across the country and unleash levelling up in left-behind places. It will deliver revitalised high streets and town centres. A faster and less bureaucratic planning system with developers held to account. More beautiful homes built alongside GP surgeries, schools and transport links, and environmental enhancement. Communities taking back control of their future with new powers to shape their local area. And our long-term levelling up missions enshrined in law.”

Since the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 has received Royal Assent, the first question clients will likely ask about the numerous updated planning provisions within the new Act will be: does anything immediately affect our schemes?

To be candid, the short answer is: “no”. The earliest date that some of the planning provisions will come into force is Tuesday 26th December 2023, however, most of the changes will likely take effect much later. For a full list of the known specific commencement and transitional provision dates for the updated planning legislations, please see: Section 255 (Commencement and transitional provision), part 13 of the published Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023.

Below is a list of some of the headline measures intended to change the planning system, that will apply in England:

  • Local Planning Authorities will have the power to decline to determine applications from applicants who have previously not implemented permissions in the area, or who have built out developments unreasonably slowly;
  • The introduction of the requirement for developers to submit commencement notices to the Local Planning Authority to specify the date on which they expect that development will begin;
  • The introduction of a new Section 73B consenting route to vary planning permissions, including varying descriptions of development;
  • The raising of the enforcement period for all planning breaches of planning control to ten years;
  • The introduction of a ‘Street Votes’ system which will allow residents to propose development on their street and hold a vote on whether planning permission should be given;
  • A new Infrastructure Levy (IL) is introduced, replacing the current Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) regime at the local level, although CIL will remain in Greater London and Wales;
  • Increased weight will be given to local plans, neighbourhood plans and spatial development strategies that are proposed by mayors or combined authorities;
  • Local Plans will be limited to ‘locally specific’ matters, with ‘issues that apply in most areas’ to be covered by new National Development Management Policies (NDMPs). In the event of a conflict between the Local Plan Policy and NDMPs, NDMPs will have primacy;
  • The Duty to Cooperate will be dropped and any time limits prescribed for different stages of plan preparation;
    Environmental Impact Assessments, Sustainability Appraisals and Strategic Environmental Assessment will be replaced by ‘Environmental Outcome Reports’ (EOR);
  • Local Planning Authorities will be required to have a design code in place covering their entire areas. The area-wide codes will act as a framework for subsequent detailed design codes to be prepared for specific sites or areas;
  • Registered parks and gardens, World Heritage Sites, protected wreck sites and registered battlefields will gain the same level of planning protection as listed buildings and conservation areas;
  • The Compulsory Purchase Order system will be reformed, disapplying the ‘hope value’ compensation of land, seeing landowners compensated for only the existing use of their land.
  • It should be noted that all of the measures listed above have not come into effect immediately and that some will require secondary legislation.

Additionally, it should be noted that the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 does not include the government’s proposed amendments on nutrient neutrality, which would have seen local planning authorities have to assume that wastewater from developments would not adversely affect a habitat site. This comes after this amendment was rejected by the House of Lords in September. The Government has since pledged to table a new bill to unblock homes currently held up by nutrient neutrality rules at the ‘first available opportunity’.

Next Steps

There will be a range of further consultations and secondary legislations in order to bring the provision of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 into effect. Pegasus Group understands that the government has promised that there will be a comprehensive update to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which was consulted on last December, in due course.

Jon Appleby