Select committe chair Clive Betts calls for greater clarity on government’s plans in flagship legislation 

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is likely to only “tinker” with the current planning system, MPs have suggested in a letter to the housing secretary Greg Clark. 

Clive Betts MP

Industry figures giving evidence to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee have also raised fears the planning system will be centralised, Clive Betts wrote to Clark.

Chair of the committee Betts wrote saying: “The main concerns that have been raised are about a lack of detail in the Bill, which has hindered effective scrutiny, and about a perceived movement towards the centralisation of planning decisions, […] the remaining planning provisions in the bill can be described as loosely connected proposals to tinker with the current system, hopefully achieving some improvement.” 

The bill is designed to bring forward reforms first mooted in the Planning for the Future white paper, released by then housing secretary Robert Jenrick in 2020, which was described at the time as a radical reform of the planning system. 

Betts also said in the missive, dated yesterday: “There continues to be concerns that the direction of travel in this bill is away from a local plan-led system, and that the national development management policies will impose a radical, centralising change upon the current system”. He added: “Part of the reason for these concerns stems from the previous issue - lack of detail in the bill.” 

Planners have consistently criticised the lack of details in the bill, which is still going through the Commons’ committee stage. Betts quoted Ian Fletcher, director of policy at the British Property Federation, in his letter who said at one evidence session of the LUHC committee: “There are a lot of areas in this bill that are a leap of faith in terms of a very sketchy outline of what the government [is] seeking to achieve without details.” 

In the same evidence session, National Housing Federation boss Kate Henderson suggested the infrastructure levy might make building enough affordable homes in some areas unviable. 

Before the committee stage, planners were warning the infrastructure levy could be too ‘complex’. 

Betts wrote in his letter to Clark that “the key message” on the levy was that “industry is used to the current community infrastructure levy, so it would be helpful if the proposed new infrastructure levy was similar to that, and that it was not over complicated.”

He also asks for the next prime minister, who will be announced by 5 September, that they say “at an early stage” whether they were sticking to the 2019 Conservative manifesto pledge of 300,000 new homes a year in England target. Housing Today is calling for the government to recommit to this target through its Fair Deal for Housing campaign.