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Peers inflict more changes to housing and planning bill

Published: Thursday, 28th April 2016

The housing and planning bill is facing the prospect of prolonged parliamentary cross-fire as peers pushed through further amendments resisted by ministers during report stage in the Lords.

The bill was due its third reading in the upper chamber this week (27 April).

The latest crop of changes insisted on by peers included a provision that local authorities could require affordable housing provision on some small-scale developments in certain rural areas.

Labour peer Baroness Royall claimed the amendment would ensure that local authorities will still be able to meet the affordable housing needs of their rural communities “in ways appropriate to their circumstances".

Peers have also insisted on measures to do with carbon emissions from homes and on so-called sustainable drainage systems (SuDs).

The legislation will now return to the Commons where the government will use its majority to repair the damage done to the bill in the Lords, particularly over starter homes policy.

This will trigger what is known as ‘ping pong’. The legislation will go back and forth between each house until both houses reach agreement on the exact wording of the bill.

During scrutiny in the Lords peers have persistently complained that much key detail of the legislation has been unavailable or promised in as yet unpublished secondary legislation. They are in a mood to dig in over the amendments they have made to the legislation, unless ministers offer compromises.

In recent days the Lords has also amended the bill to provide for a limited third party right of appeal, only available to parish councils and neighbourhood forums, where a local authority approves a housing scheme which is not in accord with a made or emerging neighbourhood plan.

Peers have also insisted that the bill makes it clear that permissions in principle (PiPs) will only be for “housing-led” development. Separately, the government has introduced an amendment which specifically prohibits PiPs for development related to the “winning and working of materials”. This is designed to kill-off the notion that PiPs could be used to ease fracking applications through.

The government has accepted a new provision in the bill which would allow for a so-called “planning freedoms scheme”. This would open up the opportunity for individual councils or a set of combined authorities to try new planning models to deliver new housing. Consultation and ministerial approval would be needed.

During the fifth and final session of the report stage in the Lords the government introduced amendments which flesh out some of the detail of the proposals for a pilot scheme to test competition in the processing of planning applications. Ministers would have to consult before launching the initiative and return to Parliament with an evaluation of the scheme which was likely to have a time-limit of five years.

View more information on the housing and planning bill

Roger Milne