This week the Queen’s Speech set out the government’s legislative agenda for the new parliamentary term. Following the recent local elections, which produced a mixed result for the government, the speech aimed to set a clear direction. But it also left many questions unanswered. Find out more about the specific bills that will impact the built environment below.
Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill
Introduced this week, the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill aims to drive local growth, empowering local leaders to regenerate their areas, and giving people opportunities they want, where they live. The bill lays the foundations for all of England to have the opportunity to benefit from a devolution deal by 2030.
Following backlash, the Planning Bill, which was announced in the 2021 Queen’s Speech, was scrapped and changes to the planning system have been included in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. Reforms include giving residents more involvement in local development, restructuring current funding models, and introducing a new approach to environmental assessments.
Energy Security Bill
Following the release of the government’s Energy Security Strategy in April, the Energy Security Bill intends to deliver the transition to cheaper, cleaner, and more secure energy. The bill aims to ensure a safe and secure energy supply and help to protect consumers against global price fluctuations. Many consumers will welcome the commitment to extending the energy price cap beyond 2023 and support for industry to step up investment to grow the market for heat pumps.
Disappointingly, the proposed bill fails to mention how we will reduce energy demand. Reducing the energy demand of our homes is the best way to simultaneously cut bills and carbon emissions – to do this, we must improve the energy efficiency of our buildings.
This is a significant challenge, but one the government must rise to through a National Retrofit Strategy – a long term policy and investment programme for upgrading the energy efficiency of England’s housing stock – something we have long been calling for.
Making the UK’s procurement regime simpler and more transparent is the goal of the proposed Procurement Bill. The bill aims to make public procurement more accessible to new entrants such as small businesses and voluntary, charitable, and social enterprises, enabling them to compete for public contracts. It will also enshrine in law the objectives of public procurement including delivering value for money, maximising public benefit, treating suppliers equally and without discrimination, and acting, and being seen to act, with integrity.
Social Housing Regulation Bill
Following the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, this bill aims to ensure better quality, safer social homes. It intends to strengthen the Regulator of Social Housing to ensure issues are resolved faster for tenants with stronger powers to issue fines, intervene in mismanagement, and powers to complete emergency repairs. It also aims to provide greater transparency for tenants about who is responsible for compliance with health and safety requirements and support investment in the supply of new social housing.
Renters Reform Bill
In England, the private rented sector accounts for 19 per cent of households, or 4.4 million homes. To help improve the sector, the Renters Reform Bill intends to abolish ‘no fault’ evictions and apply the legally binding Decent Homes Standard.
The current standard does require some insulation for a home to be considered decent; however, these targets should be more ambitious. The government is reviewing the standard and as the sector is known for its high levels of energy inefficiency, this is somewhat promising.
The bill also intends to give local councils tools to crack down on non-compliant landlords and poor practice – another welcome move. As we pointed out in our response to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy consultation on improving the energy performance of privately rented homes in England and Wales, energy efficiency standards are only effective if they are being properly enforced. To date, local authorities have been severely hampered by funding and capacity constraints, we hope this bill will address these concerns.
Non-Domestic Rating Bill
This bill hopes to deliver manifesto commitments to review and create a fairer, more accurate business rates system, and support businesses and employees to enhance productivity and energy efficiency by making improvements to their place of work.
To do this, the bill proposes to give powers to modernise the business rates system with more frequent revaluations based on more accurate data and incentivise business ratepayers to invest in their properties and decarbonise with new reliefs backed by the government.
UK Infrastructure Bank Bill
The UK Infrastructure Bank, a state-owned investment bank, is intended to help support the government’s ambitions of economic growth in regional and local sectors across the UK and reach net zero carbon by 2050.
The bill will finalise the creation of the bank by establishing it in law with clear objectives and ensuring it has the full range of spending and lending powers.
What happens next?
Over the coming weeks, the speech will be debated in parliament. As each bill is introduced and further details emerge, we will work with government to ensure that changes to built environment policy address the climate emergency, ensure our buildings are safe, and help manage the cost-of-living crisis.