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Government unveils new levelling up law - what it means for estate agents

The government last night revealed more details on its flagship Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill including letting local authorities double council tax on empty and second homes and imposing local design codes for developers.

The Bill was one of the key parts of this week’s Queen’s Speech.

Through the proposed law, the government aims to help transform struggling towns and cities, support local leaders to take back control of regeneration, end the blight of empty shops on their high streets and deliver the quality homes that communities need.  


The focus on housebuilding in the Bill includes:

-  Local plans - the way in which councils set the vision for future development in their area and decide whether to give planning permission - will gain stronger legal weight and be made simpler to produce. Communities will have a major say in these plans giving them more opportunity to shape what happens in their areas. Currently 61% of councils do not have an up to date local plan, which leaves communities exposed to development on which they haven’t had a meaningful say.   

-  A digitised planning system making plans and planning applications fully available on your smartphone.   
- Stronger protections for the environment in local plans, empowering councils to make better use of brownfield land and protect precious greenbelt land.
- Local design codes will be made mandatory so that developers have to respect styles drawn up and favoured locally - from the layout or materials used, to how it provides green space.

Other property related measures in the Bill include giving local leaders the powers to regenerate their communities and transform their high streets and town centres

This includes: 

-    New powers for local leaders to run High Street Rental Auctions, where they can auction off tenancies in shops that have been vacant for over a year. This will help to end the plague of empty shops that blight so many high streets.

-Councils will also be able to double council tax on empty and second homes, ensuring everyone pays their fair share towards local services and boost levelling up.

- The ‘al-fresco dining revolution’ will be made permanent, injecting new life into the high street through creating a sustainable process for communities, business and local authorities, making it permanently cheaper and quicker to get a licence for outdoor dining. 

- A new, locally set infrastructure levy, charged on the final value of property when its sold, will replace much of the broken S106 payments system. This will see the big developers contribute far more of the money they make from development towards building better local roads, rail, schools, hospitals, and more affordable housing.

- Legislation to make it easier for councils to regenerate their town centres through Compulsory Purchase Orders, making the process quicker and easier to use.  

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said: “As a country, we need to be firing on all cylinders. 

“That is why we must level up the UK, spread prosperity and opportunity, and make sure everyone can share in our nation’s success. 

“This Bill puts in place the reforms we need to level up.

“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. It enables every part of England which wants a London-style mayor to have one. It empowers local people, not the big developers, to take back control of regeneration in their community. 

“It shifts power out of Whitehall by giving local leaders the powers they need to tackle the blight of empty shops on high streets and to regenerate their communities. This is underpinned by a firm belief that by far the best placed people to level up communities are the people who live there.
“We want everyone to be given the opportunity to stay local but go far.”

  • Andrew Ireland

    It is precisely because local busy bodies were let into the planning system that development came grinding to a halt. The bill shows a lack of understanding of the process of development, it’s risks and returns.

  • icon

    Please can someone put the adults in charge now? Get a feeling once you’ll scratch the surface of this, the headlines will soon fade. Local councils having more legal weight with local plans surely just means giving councils powers to empilement whatever plan they see fit.

  • edward apostolides

    Couldn't agree more with Andrew and David, this is a lot of claptrap that will only result in more power to moronic councils to mess up even more and central government do what they seem to be experts in - nothing for us apart from create more expense and red tape.

  • Richard Copus

    Central government are certainly not experts at planning! We have the most centralised housing development system among the western democracies which harks back to the old USSR command approach. I'm not saying local authorities are be much better on their own, but the two need to liaise and seeing the rubbish that has been built on our doorstep which could have been far better designed and laid out with a bit more local authority input, the planning system would undoubtedly work far better if central government and lpa's who have an interest in what the properties look like put their heads together.

  • icon

    terrible.... this will hinder more planning applications and drive out smaller developers. Who wants to pay for double council tax on an empty property whilst you await planning to do something with it!

  • girish mehta

    Policies are ok in rundown areas up north. Good votes bank . Not workable in good areas . Will create lot of problems in London. What is y the login behind chargeing double rates for empty properties some project in south takes couple of years to get planning permission. Government and council geared to make money. The government department should change their name from department of levelling up to department of levelling down. Clowns in charge. Decades without consistent housing policy and may carry on for few decades .

  • David Clark

    Lots of real detail missing from this. Shifting power out of Whitehall is all very well, if the local authority can be trusted to deal with it. Those that have created their own 'independent' trading and development companies will have even more freedom to abuse the system. Local authorities that have chosen to roll-back to Local Plans that are out of date, because they don't like what they are being told to implement is not exactly progress or levelling either. Locally we have CIL (community infrastructure levy) which is charged on all development except self-build (subject to period of occupation criteria). CIL is chargeable when the developer breaks soil or demolishes - so upfront charging . A charge on value when complete/sold might be preferable.

  • icon

    How is paying the same council tax as everyone else not 'paying your fair share' just because a property is empty? How does doubling it then make it a 'fair share'?


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