Government's levelling up plans are slammed by councils in the south east

THE organisation representing councils across the south east has criticised a 'lack of ambition' in the government's new Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.

By Josh Wright
Friday, 13th May 2022, 4:13 pm
Britain's Housing Secretary Michael Gove arrives to attend a Cabinet away day at Middleport Pottery on May 12, 2022 in Stoke on Trent, England. Photo by Oli Scarff - WPA Pool/Getty Images
Britain's Housing Secretary Michael Gove arrives to attend a Cabinet away day at Middleport Pottery on May 12, 2022 in Stoke on Trent, England. Photo by Oli Scarff - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The bill, announced on Wednesday, would overhaul the planning system and introduce a high street auction system allowing councils to auction off tenancies in retail units that have been vacant for more than a year.

But South East Councils chairman Nicolas Heslop said the bill did not go far enough.

'Councils need to be empowered to address inequalities within the south east and allow local leaders to deliver what is needed for our communities,' he said. 'Moves to help more people take an active role in local planning decisions are welcome, as well as the suggestion that a new infrastructure levy should be based on property value at point of sale, rather than when planning permission is granted.

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'However, changes proposed for the planning system pay lip service to the real issues being felt by people across the south east who are already facing rising costs of living by failing to adequately address the urgency to invest in housing, both to rent and to buy.'

He said developers were 'crushingly slow' in building new homes because they 'continue to sit on planning consents as more people struggle to find an affordable place to live'.

'Local councils understand their own communities and should be fully empowered to retain developer contributions to invest in community infrastructure and have full influence to ensure the right homes are built in the right places,' he added.

His concerns were echoed by Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson who said more focus needed to be put on the cost of living crisis and that the proposed planning powers would make 'little difference'.

But Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove said the bill would 'spread prosperity and opportunity' across the country.

He said it would move power out of Whitehall and give greater powers to councils to regenerate their areas.

'This bill puts in place the reforms we need to level up,' he said. 'It enshrines our levelling up missions in law, which will shift resources and focus throughout this decade to the parts and people of the country who need it most.'