Government amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill to designed to stop housebuilders landbanking

Councils are to be given powers to block planning permissions from developers who have failed to deliver homes on the same site, in a bid to speed up delivery of homes.


Housing secretary Michael Gove set out his “Biden” principles last week

Builders will also be forced to report annually to councils on the rate of build-out of sites, under new planning amendments to the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill tabled by the government on Friday. The amendments come amid political concern about perceived land-banking and slow build-out rates by major developers.

Ministers said the amendments, which also included clauses designed to bring forward street votes and enact ministers’ plans to force water companies to improve wastewater facilities, will help to regenerate communities and deliver on the missions in the levelling up white paper. 

The amendments follow housing secretary Michael Gove last week setting out a series of new principles he wants developments to adhere to, under the acronym “Biden”, standing for: beauty, infrastructure, democracy, environment, neighbourhoods.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) said the amendments will follow the “Biden” principles”. Housing minister Lucy Frazer MP added: “The measures we are setting out today will put protecting the environment at the heart of our plans, while bringing forward much needed new homes across the country.

lucy frazer

Lucy Frazer said the amendments would help the government “bring forward much needed new homes across the country”

“We will make sure that new development is surrounded by the right infrastructure and that local people are given an opportunity to shape their neighbourhood.”

The amendments come ahead of the delayed report stage of the bill in the House of Commons on Wednesday this week.

>> See also: Tory MP pledges bill amendments to end housing targets

>> See also: Superfluous and unconvincing: Why the levelling up bill is a missed opportunity

The department did not reveal in any detail how the amendments around encouraging developer build-out would work, but in a statement said they were designed to “tackle slow build out by developers to make sure much needed new homes are delivered”.

The statement said the amendment proposed that developers will “have to report annually to councils on their progress and councils will have new powers to block planning proposals from builders who have failed to deliver on the same land”.

Previously, housebuilders have argued when similar such measures have been proposed that they would tend to reduce the number of homes being built, by making development more risky, and making it harder to adapt developments to new economic situations.

A spokesperson for the Home Builders Federation (HBF) said: “Repeated independent investigations have concluded that house builders do not and bank. Having invested in land and spent often hundreds of thousands of pounds securing planning permission builders are always keen to get on site as soon as possible and get a return on this investment but there are many influences over how quickly a site can be built out.

“In an increasingly challenging operating environment, made worse by the implications of the disastrous mini budget, ministers should be working with industry and providing it with confidence to invest in sites, not erecting more barriers.”

The amendments around water quality are designed to help address the nutrient neutrality issues which are holding up more than 100,000 homes in the planning pipeline across England, according to the HBF. The amendments will enshrine in law an obligation on water companies to upgrade wastewater treatment works, which the department said would deliver an average 75% reduction in phosphorus loads and 55% reduction in nitrogen loads from wastewater treatment works.

However, developers have already said the proposals are insufficient, because they do nothing to tackle the problem facing developers now.

The amendments on “street votes” will, the department said, “give residents a new tool to propose additional development on their street”, such as extensions to existing homes. Permission for these developments will require an independent examiner to approve designs and endorsement at a local referendum.

The department also tabled amendments to allow the piloting of Community Land Auctions – a proposed method for capturing value from land that has been allocated in the development plan for local communities.

The amendments came as the government announced it had allocated £35m from the £180m Brownfield Land Release Fund 2 to 59 projects across 41 different councils, delivering up to 2,200 homes. The funding will see projects in Lancaster, Hull, Mid-Devon and Great Yarmouth benefit from the funding programme, from which £77m has already been allocated.

Announcing the funding, the department said that “increasing housing supply is central to the levelling up agenda and supports the government’s ongoing target to deliver 300,000 new homes a year.”