Charles III sets out plans to reform leasehold and rents, but reports of no fresh legislation planned on nutrients issue confirmed

Fresh legislation to overhaul the nutrient pollution laws blamed for holding up the building of 150,000 homes was not included in today’s King’s Speech, despite Michael Gove’s previous promise to bring forward a bill.

In his first speech as monarch, King Charles III today set out the government’s plans for the year ahead in Westminster.

Prince Charles Queen's Speech

While his speech contained measures to reform leaseholds and the private renting market, it also confirmed previous reports that the government has dropped plans to legislate on nutrient neutrality.

The omission means the last realistic opportunity to legislate before the next general election has now passed.

King Charles said: ”My ministers will bring forward a bill to reform the housing market by making it cheaper and easier for leaseholders to purchase their freehold and tackling the exploitation of millions of homeowners through punitive service charges.

”Renters will benefit from stronger security of tenure and better value, while landlords will benefit from reforms to provide certainty that they can regain their properties when needed.”

The current nutrient neutrality rules require that housing developments in specified areas do not add to pollution of waterways with nutrients such as nitrogen or phosphates.

Housing secretary Michael Gove told a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference in October that he wanted the rules to be scrapped “at the first available opportunity” and indicated he would bring back a bill to parliament in order to do it.

The government’s original plan was to amend the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill to allow housebuilders to effectively ignore evidence of nutrient pollution from housing development sites.

However, this was defeated in the House of Lords in September after Labour peers joined a revolt against the plan.

Parliamentary procedure prohibits further attempts to amend the levelling up bill, so ministers had been eyeing fresh legislation. 

The Leasehold and Freehold Bill referred to by the King has long been promised by Gove who has described system of freeholders maintaining control over properties as “feudal”.

The planned legislation will make it cheaper and easier for existing leaseholders in houses and flats to extend their lease or buy their freehold by increasing the standard lease extension term from 90 years to 990 years for both houses and flats, with ground rent reduced to £0.

>>See also: How do we stop the nutrient neutrality problem holding up development?

>>See also: Nutrients: sometimes it is okay to ignore those who oppose development

The plans also make it easier for leaseholders to buy the freeholds of their homes and places a moratorium on the creation of new leasehold houses, except under “exceptional circumstances.”

The Renters Reform Bill will increase tenants’ security by abolishing ”no fault evictions” while strengthening the powers of landlords to evict anti-social tenants or reclaim possession when they want to sell the property. 

King Charles also said the government “will deliver a long term plan to regenerate towns and put local people in control of the future of their towns”. The government’s Levelling Up and Regeneraton Bill, which gained Royal Assent last month, overhauls planning and plan-making, reforms developer contributions and enshrines the government’s “levelling up missions” in law. It also includes new ‘street vote’ powers, which would allow residents on a street to bring forward proposals to redevelop their properties in line with their design preferences.

The speech’s briefing documents also re-iterated, as previously announced by Sunak, that the government is not now planning to force private landlords or homeowners to upgrade homes to EPC C.