Lord Crisp Portrait Lord Crisp (CB)
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My Lords, I will speak to the three amendments about healthy homes in my name in this group: Amendments 191A, 191B and 286. I support other amendments in this group; in particular, Amendment 198, which, like these amendments, links health and housing, and much of what I will say is also very relevant to that amendment.

I am very grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Young of Cookham, Lord Blunkett and Lord Stunell, for adding their names, and more generally to noble Lords across your Lordships’ House who have supported these amendments. I am also very grateful to the TCPA, which has supported me with these amendments; there is also a considerable campaign of support for them outside which it has created, including among builders, developers and insurers, all of whom recognise that action is needed.

I am also very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Bybrook, and the noble Earl, Lord Howe, with whom we have had two meetings, but sadly without any progress being made. I wait to hear what may be said later.

In describing these amendments, I will also explain why they are very different from the Government’s existing and planned policy. I make a point of this because the Government have consistently stated that these amendments are not necessary as they are already covered by existing or planned policy. However, these differences start with the recognition of the vital link between housing and health and well-being. They are intimately connected issues. Noble Lords will be very well aware of these connections and the problems—for example, of damp, cold, mould, air pollution, safety and more—when poor housing has caused deaths, illnesses and accidents. We need think only of the poor child in Rochdale who died from mould or the child in London who died from air pollution in their homes.

It is also important to remember to mention the mental health issues caused by poor, insecure, overcrowded housing and living in homes and neighbourhoods that are vulnerable to crime. I know that noble Lords debating the amendment of my noble friend Lady Willis will have much more to say about this, and particularly inequalities. It is the poorest people in the poorest neighbourhoods who are worst affected, and that is a very fitting topic for a levelling-up Bill.

Noble Lords will also be aware of the great strides earlier Governments made in understanding the relationship between health and housing and tackling them together, from Victorian times onwards—slum clearances over the ages, but also the great campaign of “Homes for Heroes” after the First World War. People recognised those important links, yet today, there is virtually nothing about health in planning and, if there is, it is about healthcare. The links between health, well-being and planning are simply not addressed. That is why Amendment 191A states:

“The Secretary of State must promote a comprehensive regulatory framework for planning and the built environment designed to secure … the physical, mental and social health and well-being of the people of England, and ... healthy homes and neighbourhoods”.

This does three very important things. It places health and well-being firmly at the heart of planning for the built environment; stresses the links between an individual’s health and the neighbourhood in which they live; and provides a clear aim for the whole planning and regulatory system. All three are important.

I recognise that this is a substantial strategic change in the approach to planning and regulation which, if adopted, will have a positive impact on the quality of housing and neighbourhoods, should reduce the likelihood of new slums being created and truly help to level up. It will also have a positive financial benefit by reducing the massive cost of poor housing to, for example, the NHS. I will not labour this point, but it is in the many billions of pounds. The respected Building Research Establishment estimates that it is £135 billion over 30 years. Of course, there is all the human cost of poor housing and huge cost to other sectors of the economy. In summary, there is a real choice here between carrying on as before and making a determined effort to create good housing for the citizens of this country that is fit for the future.

I turn for a moment to standards and quality. I imagine that all noble Lords are well aware of the poor standard of some recent developments, mainly but not exclusively those created through permitted development rights. We can see that existing arrangements have not stopped that, and new policies will lack the teeth to make it happen. Amendment 191A refers to the Secretary of State being responsible for creating

“a system of standards that promotes and”,

importantly, “secures healthy homes”. The system of standards covers 11 areas, which are linked concerns about individuals and the community. They bring health and environment and health and security issues together. Importantly, in Amendment 191B, it is the Secretary of State who is held to account by Parliament for delivery, by the mechanisms in the amendments.

We are not writing the policy; we are making sure it is delivered everywhere. We set out those principles to be followed which need to be enshrined in law; we have deliberately left the Secretary of State with space to define the standards, which will obviously change over time, and the methods they use to deliver them. We are not trying to rewrite government policy here; we are trying to enact legislation.

Since Committee, the Government have proposed the extension of permitted development rights to embrace sites in countryside areas, farms, national parks and hotels. This makes these amendments even more necessary. We need the health and well-being focus, the coherence and the standards as a counterbalance: a free-for-all will not help the public or the economy. As the APPG on homelessness said even before that extension was proposed, PDR can provide extra needed housing, but it needs to be done well, which is why that cross-party group supports these amendments.

Let me touch on costs. I imagine that some noble Lords will be thinking, “Doesn’t this cost a great deal of money?” I am not talking about the difference between lower-cost and higher-cost houses, I am talking about the difference between lower-cost housing and housing that is simply not fit for purpose. The analogy I use is the MOT. The MOT dictates whether or not a car is fit to be on our roads. If we have such a test for our cars, we also need to ensure that our housing is fit to be on our streets.

I have so far talked about the extraordinary opportunity cost of not addressing these issues. If we do not address them, we are condemning a lot of people to poor housing. But let us look at it from the other side for a moment: from the point of view of opportunity, and homes for heroes, if you like. Who have these homes been built for? There is opportunity here if people have a secure home, a secure base from which to operate, space for children to do their homework, where they are not spending all their time worrying about repairs and everything else. This is about life chances. It is not just about housing affecting health and well-being; it affects people’s life chances in the long term.

These are powerful arguments, and I wait to hear how the Government are going to respond. However, I should say at this point that I expect to take this to a vote, because I want His Majesty’s Government to think again and engage with the arguments about health, well-being and standards. They have not done so thus far, but it is very important that they do. I beg to move.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Portrait Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab)
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My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 198 in my name and those of the noble Baroness, Lady Willis of Summertown, the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Bath, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London.

The noble Baroness, Lady Willis, very much regrets that she is unable to be present, for unavoidable reasons, and has therefore asked me to speak to her amendment. In essence, it would ensure that the planning system is contributing to the levelling-up agenda by designing the places people need to thrive and contributing to a general health and well-being objective. Let me say here that I entirely endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, with his great experience, said. This amendment is entirely consistent with and complementary to his, and I am glad that he will press his to a Division.

I should say that my interest in this came from the particular issue of health inequality, but it is active travel on which I will focus. Subsection (4) of Amendment 198, to which local planning authorities or, as the case may be, the Secretary of State would have to have regard, emphasises some of the points the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, is making:

“ensuring that key destinations such as essential shops, schools, parks and open spaces, health facilities and public transport services are in safe and convenient proximity on foot to homes … facilitating access to these key destinations and creating opportunities for everyone to be physically active by improving existing, and creating new, walking and cycling routes and networks … increasing access to high-quality green infrastructure … ensuring a supply of housing which is affordable … and meets”

health, accessibility and well-being needs. That is entirely consistent with what both the Government and the Opposition would think of when they talk of health and well-being.