All 4 Lord Crisp contributions to the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023

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Tue 17th Jan 2023
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Mon 23rd Oct 2023
Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Lord Crisp Excerpts
Lord Crisp Portrait Lord Crisp (CB)
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My Lords, I want to raise three particular issues. First, how will the Bill enable levelling up? The second makes the links between health, climate change, and planning which are largely absent in the Bill, as other noble Lords have said. The third is to comment on the quality of housing, not just the type and quantity.

On the first one, it was very helpful to have a chance to meet the Minister and discuss some of these issues earlier, and for her to explain that the missions are not in the Bill but the Bill is about enabling the missions within it. I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, has told us what we need to do to enable levelling up, and within that there is a bit which is the responsibility of national government. One of the things within national government that the Bill does not do, although it may have various things about the missions, is anything about joining up the missions between each other, and how important that is. If we do not do that, we will have disjointed and sometimes conflicting approaches and plans.

The objective of levelling up as set out in the White Paper is a fundamentally important idea which requires a range of linked and funded actions across environmental, social and economic realms; the Bill does not do anything for that at the national level. If I take the very specific issue of the crisis in the NHS at the moment, it is very clear that reform of the NHS—whatever that means to different people—will not be effective without related changes in housing, education, employment, and much more, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle talked about in his very moving contribution about the social determinants of health. These things are all fundamentally linked.

The second point is about what is happening at a local level. Here I take my cue from my noble friend Lord Mawson, who is unable to speak in this debate, not being able to be here for the entire time. I know that he would ask: where is the innovation in this Bill? Where are the vehicles for innovation where business, community and others are able to come together with local authorities to drive new ideas and change in a way that really works across the entire community? I suspect that to a large degree the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, may have answered these questions.

I will move on to the second area. The White Paper itself clearly identified health, well-being, and human thriving as issues which require special attention. The White Paper noted both the importance of tackling health inequality and that levelling up was as much a moral as an economic imperative. As a result, it is remarkable that the Bill itself contains not a single practical measure which would support communities either in the short-term battle with the cost of living crisis, or to secure their long-term health and well-being.

Just one example of this is the lack of any provisions which might strengthen public health considerations in the planning process. I know that this is despite strong attempts to insert such measures in the other place, and there is a great parallel here with other noble Lords’ arguments about the importance of having climate change fundamentally as part of the planning process. I argue that health and well-being need to be central to this legislation, and that the legislation itself needs to contain practical and deliverable measures that will have an immediate impact on the welfare of our communities.

I turn to the third idea, which is about health and housing. Again, a number of noble Lords have talked about the important links between health and housing, and it has been very evident over centuries that housing is of fundamental importance to health, not least in the negative impacts—we know about the impact of damp and mould growing in homes, we know about accidents in homes, we know about air pollution and problems of all sorts within homes which damage people’s health. But we also know that homes are a foundation of people’s lives, places which allow people to have a stable environment from which they can build success in the rest of their lives. The quality of homes is vital, and the Bill does not contain the necessary standards to ensure that new homes and communities adequately support people’s health and well-being.

As the Minister knows, and as my noble friend Lady Prashar has already mentioned, I have introduced a Healthy Homes Bill which is awaiting its Third Reading in your Lordships’ House. This requires all new homes to promote health, safety, and well-being, and sets out 11 areas of healthy homes principles. I am delighted to say that there was widespread support at Second Reading from all parts of the House for that Bill, and I plan to put forward related amendments to it in Committee.

In summary, this is a missed opportunity, as others have said, in pursuit of the worthwhile aim of this piece of legislation. But it is also clear from the debate so far that noble Lords have many excellent proposals for improving the Bill, and I look forward, if that is the right word, to the many debates.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Lord Crisp Excerpts
Moved by
188: After Clause 86, insert the following new Clause—
“Duty to promote health and well-beingThe Secretary of State must ensure that national planning policy and guidance are designed to secure positive improvements in the physical and mental health and well-being of the people of England.”
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Lord Crisp Portrait Lord Crisp (CB)
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My Lords, in moving the amendment in my name, I am very grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Young of Cookham, Lord Blunkett and Lord Stunell, who have added their names to my amendments in this group. I very much look forward to their contributions today.

Amendment 188 sets out that:

“The Secretary of State must ensure that national planning policy and guidance are designed to secure positive improvements in the physical and mental health and well-being of the people of England.”

There is currently no provision for promoting health and well-being in planning legislation and guidance. Even in the key paragraph 20 of the National Planning Policy Framework, where the Government set down requirements on strategic policies in local plans, there is no mention of promoting health and well-being but simply a reference to the provision of healthcare facilities. This seems to be a very old-fashioned view of health which equates health with healthcare.

If nothing else, the pandemic has accelerated public understanding that health in the broadest sense, and well-being, are central to place-making, communities and the levelling-up missions. Our homes and neighbourhoods deeply influence our health, for good and for bad, and this all influences our life chances. If we want to level up and create the circumstances in which people can flourish, health and well-being must have central roles in our planning system.

I recognise that this is a big change. The amendment is very carefully worded to say “designed” to secure positive improvements. This is not just an add-on: it places health and well-being at the heart of the system. There is an opportunity here to create the conditions for levelling up and for people to flourish. We can use the planning system to ensure that we are providing healthy environments and healthy homes that are fit for purpose.

I refer briefly to the amendments in this group that are not in my name. They cover very similar territory. While I will not speak to them, I support them.

I turn to Amendments 394 to 399, which are specifically about healthy homes. I will briefly explain the background to these and why I think they are necessary, before going into some detail.

I am delighted that the Government recognise that housing and health are key to levelling up, and that, in the Minister’s letter to Peers on 27 January, she wrote that the Government support the objective within the Healthy Homes Bill. However, she went on to say that this is dealt with by existing laws and/or alternative policy. With respect, I do not believe that that is the case. There is no overall statutory duty with regard to healthy homes, and it is clear to all of us that existing laws and guidance are simply not producing the results that we all want. There is some existing policy—for example, in the National Planning Policy Framework—that addresses some of these issues, but even this is not mandatory and can be set aside by local decision-makers.

More directly, we can all see that existing policies are not working—we need only to look at some of the results. I have a photo book, which I will send to the Minister, of some of the worst examples around the country. I am happy to send it to any other noble Lord who wishes to have a copy. It contains examples of some recently developed homes. Many of them are permitted developments with, for example, redundant office blocks on industrial sites providing appalling accommodation, but this is not just about PDR.

It is reasonable to ask, and I have been asked, whether the requirements proposed in these amendments will add cost. The argument goes that you could perhaps get a larger number of homes for the same sort of money. But that is the wrong question. This is not about higher or lower cost or quality. The purpose is to eliminate homes being developed that are simply not fit for purpose. It is not about the relative cost.

I know that there are other objections around this being extra regulation, although this is not the principal barrier to development generally. I have met with high-quality developers around the country and looked at how they are developing homes and neighbourhoods. There is very little in this that they are not already doing, and they have internal processes to ensure that it happens. More generally, for the regulation system as a whole, I believe that an overarching requirement to promote health, safety and well-being will help align planning and building regulations better and could be used to reduce complexity.

Turning to the detail of the amendments, I think they provide a very sensible structure. I do not claim credit for it; it was proposed by Dr Hugh Ellis of the TCPA. In essence, they set out a duty on the Secretary of State to secure health, safety and well-being in new homes in accordance with 11 healthy homes principles, which the Secretary of State can then establish the policy on. This is not set in stone but can change from time to time as appropriate and can be interpreted differently by the Secretary of State for different areas, such as country and town areas. There is also a duty to report on progress. The key point is that this is all mandatory and that it should be reported on regularly.

Amendment 394 would introduce a duty on the Secretary of State to secure healthy homes. Amendment 395 would require the Secretary of State to prepare a policy statement explaining how the healthy homes principles will be used. Amendment 396 sets out the principles. Amendment 397 would require a draft of the statement on interpretation to be available to Parliament for possible comment. Amendment 398 describes the effect of the statement on different authorities. Amendment 399 would require the Secretary of State to publish an annual progress report.

I commend these amendments to your Lordships as a way of securing new homes that are fit for purpose, which would also enhance health and reduce the burden on the health and care system, because we should note that unhealthy homes, far from being a cost-neutral or light-cost option, cost the NHS roughly £1.4 billion every year. Most importantly, the amendments would provide homes that offer a secure foundation for the lives of individuals and families, helping them to thrive. They would also play a significant role in levelling up. I beg to move.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, Amendment 188, headed as it is by the noble Lords, Lord Crisp and Lord Young, sounds like an advertisement for a supermarket lettuce. Along with the noble Lords, Lord Blunkett and Lord Stunell, I supported the Healthy Homes Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, on 15 July, along with many other noble Lords who all spoke in favour at Second Reading. When the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, replied to the debate, after expressing his disappointment that the Government were not supportive of his Bill, he said:

“I will take the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, and look for opportunities for this in current legislation.”—[Official Report, 15/7/22; col. 1707.]

He then did what did not always happened when I was Chief Whip in another place: he followed my advice. His amendments would simply insert his Bill into this one, so today we have an opportunity to build on what was said on that occasion in July and take the debate forward.

I looked again at what the Minister said in reply to that debate:

“The Government oppose this Bill, not because they take issue with the premise of noble Lords’ arguments, but rather because they believe that the problems highlighted in the Bill are already being dealt with via alternative policy routes … Many of the proposed healthy homes principles are already covered by the National Planning Policy Framework, which sets out the Government’s planning policies for England and how these should be applied. The NPPF must be taken into account by local authorities in the preparation of their development plans, and it is a material consideration in planning decisions.”

She went on to say:

“We are intending to review the NPPF to support the programme of changes to the planning system. This will provide an opportunity to ensure that the NPPF contributes to sustainable development as fully as possible.”

So two options are available. One is to do what the amendments would do and incorporate the Healthy Homes Bill into primary legislation. The other—and I hold no negotiating brief for the noble Lord, Lord Crisp—is for the Government to undertake that the revised NPPF will incorporate the relevant commitments in Amendments 394 to 399.

Those amendments build on what is already in the NPPF. In the Minister’s own words:

“The social objective focuses on supporting strong, vibrant and healthy communities by fostering well-designed, beautiful and safe places with accessible services and open spaces. More specifically, the framework is clear that planning policies and decisions should aim to achieve healthy, inclusive and safe places. This should support healthy lifestyles, especially where this would address identified local health and well-being needs.”

The Minister went on to say:

“This means that all plans should promote sustainable patterns of growth to meet local need, align growth and infrastructure, improve the environment, mitigate climate change and adapt to its effects.”—[Official Report, 15/7/22; cols. 1702-03.]

But that is not a million miles away from what is in the noble Lord’s amendments. The Minister may want to reflect on the precise wording and have a dialogue with the noble Lord, but her objective of mitigating climate change, which I just referred to, is not a million miles from proposed new paragraph (f) in Amendment 396, that

“all new homes should secure radical reductions in carbon emissions in line with the provisions of the Climate Change Act 2008”.

If my noble friend the Minister has “resist” on the top of her speaking notes, is she prepared to discuss with the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, how his agenda can best be taken forward?

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Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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I would love to tell the noble Baroness how that is to be done. I will consult my officials and do my best to do so.

Lord Crisp Portrait Lord Crisp (CB)
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My Lords, there have been many tremendous debates in your Lordships’ Chamber, and this has certainly been one of them. I am very grateful to everyone who spoke in support of the amendments that I and other noble Lords tabled. I am also grateful for the personal comments that noble Lords have made, and I will pass those straight on to the TCPA, which actually did the work behind the scenes on this entire campaign.

I was thinking of how to sum this up without going through everything. If the Government will forgive me, in today’s debate were the makings of a very decent levelling up Bill. If we could bring these things together, it would have ambition and vision, as the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, and others, talked about. It would also be strategic and systemic; the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, made a point about the environmental and energy issues being deeply integrated with health and well-being. We need to see some systemic change if we are to make the differences that we are talking about. There are also practical things that can be done here—people have talked about levers and specifics. They are also guided by experience. I was very heartened to hear very experienced Members from different backgrounds, including noble Lords who understand these issues because they meet them in their professional lives. So, such a Bill would have a lot of important ingredients and a broadly shared vision.

I was struck by another thing, which planners will be pleased about. Planning is often seen as a negative, but all noble Lords described it as something that could enable the creation of the flourishing individuals, society and communities that we all want.

I will not take up any more time, except to respond to the noble Earl’s response. At Second Reading of the Healthy Homes Bill, I got a very similar response from the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield. My response was that:

“I was not necessarily surprised and therefore not necessarily disappointed”.—[Official Report, 15/7/22; col. 1706.]

I am not surprised, but I would like to think that there is some route for discussion. The big difference here is between guidance and what is required. In my comments, I have been trying to hammer in that we need to build houses that are fit for purpose. We also need to return to the health and well-being issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, and by me. I would be very happy to meet the Government if it were useful to discuss these things further. Maybe there is some useful discussion to be had around the NPPF. I am not sure whether there will be but, if not, I expect us to debate this again in this Chamber sometime after the Coronation—I am not quite sure when. I suspect that we may also be debating health and well-being.

I finish by returning to the noble Lord, Lord Young, who was kindly encouraging me to negotiate. I will look to him for advice on how best to do that, but I cannot resist replying to his very first comment, which noble Lords may remember—two hours and 17 minutes ago or whenever it was—that, as “Young and Crisp”, we sound like a supermarket selling lettuces. It reminded me of another Member—the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich—making a similar comment a few years ago. In a debate on Africa, he said something similar about sandwiches and crisps. I can only say that I am extremely fortunate in my business partners.

On that note, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 188 withdrawn.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Lord Crisp Excerpts
Moved by
191A: After Clause 88, insert the following new Clause—
“Secretary of State’s duty to promote healthy homes and neighbourhoods(1) The Secretary of State must promote a comprehensive regulatory framework for planning and the built environment designed to secure—(a) the physical, mental and social health and well-being of the people of England, and(b) healthy homes and neighbourhoods.(2) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for a system of standards that promotes and secures healthy homes on condition that certain requirements prescribed in the regulations are met. (3) Schedule (Healthy homes) makes provision about healthy homes standards.”
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.

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To conclude, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, having heard what I have said, will agree to withdraw Amendment 191A, and that noble Lords will be content for the other amendments in this group not to be moved when they are reached.
Lord Crisp Portrait Lord Crisp (CB)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for taking part and for the great support which our amendments have received. The noble Earl, Lord Howe, knows that in our earlier discussions we always said we were happy to discuss the detail and how this would be implemented and that there were two sticking points. The two sticking points were having some firm, fixed standards—the MOT analogy I used—but also the whole approach to the system of promoting health and well-being. I very much welcome the movement the Government have made on extending the Decent Homes Standard to social housing but also to the private rental sector. I have to ask, of course: why not also to PDR, and indeed to all new homes, if it is good enough for those areas? PDR is obviously the area where there has been the most problems.

We have always said there is a great deal of flexibility in how these standards are applied. To briefly respond to the noble Lords, Lord Naseby and Lord Lucas, the amendment makes it clear that it is up to the Secretary of State to interpret these healthy homes principles, and it explicitly says that there will be differences between rural, urban and suburban areas, for precisely the reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, mentioned.

I am very happy that there has been considerable movement. There has not been movement on the fundamental principle, which is that all new homes being developed, if I may put it in terribly layman’s language, need to promote health, safety and well-being, and that is where we need to be going. So, I ask the Government to think again and see if they can move further in due course, and I would like to test the opinion of the House.

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Moved by
191B: Before Schedule 7, insert the following new Schedule—
“SCHEDULEHealthy homesPolicy statement on healthy homes principles
1 The Secretary of State must prepare a statement in accordance with this schedule (the “policy statement on healthy homes principles”).2 The statement must explain how the healthy homes principles are to be interpreted and applied by Ministers of the Crown and relevant responsible authorities in making, developing and revising their policies.3 The statement may explain how the principles will be implemented and adhered to in a way that takes account of a building development’s urban, suburban or rural location.Meaning of “healthy homes principles”
4 In this Act “healthy homes principles” means the principles that—(a) all new homes should be safe in relation to the risk of fire,(b) all new homes should have, as a minimum, the liveable space required to meet the needs of people over their whole lifetime, including adequate internal and external storage space,(c) all main living areas and bedrooms of a new dwelling should have access to natural light,(d) all new homes and their surroundings should be designed to be inclusive, accessible, and adaptable to suit the needs of all, with particular regard to protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010,(e) all new homes should be built within places that prioritise and provide access to sustainable transport and walkable services, including green infrastructure and play space,(f) all new homes should secure radical reductions in carbon emissions in line with the provisions of the Climate Change Act 2008,(g) all new homes should demonstrate how they will be resilient to a changing climate over their full lifetime,(h) all new homes should be secure and built in such a way as to minimise the risk of crime,(i) all new homes should be free from adverse and intrusive noise and light pollution,(j) all new homes should not contribute to unsafe or illegal levels of indoor or ambient air pollution and must be built to minimise, and where possible eliminate, the harmful impacts of air pollution on human health and the environment, and(k) all new homes should be designed to provide year-round thermal comfort for inhabitants.Policy statement on healthy homes principles: process
5 The Secretary of State must prepare a draft of the policy statement on healthy homes principles.6 The Secretary of State must consult such persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate in relation to the draft statement.7 The Secretary of State must lay the draft statement before Parliament.8 If, before the end of the period of 21 sitting days beginning with the day after the day on which the draft statement is laid—(a) either House of Parliament passes a resolution in respect of the draft, or(b) a committee of either House, or a joint committee of both Houses, makes recommendations in respect of the draft,the Secretary of State must produce a response and lay it before Parliament. 9 The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament, and publish, the final statement, but not before—(a) if paragraph 8 applies, the day on which the Secretary of State lays before Parliament the response required by that subsection, or(b) otherwise, the end of the period of 21 sitting days beginning with the day after the day on which the draft statement is laid before Parliament.10 The Secretary of State may revise the policy statement on healthy homes principles at any time (and paragraphs 5 to 11 apply in relation to any revised statement).11 “Sitting day” means a day on which both Houses of Parliament sit.Policy statement on healthy homes principles: effect
12 A Minister of the Crown must have regard to the healthy homes principles when making, developing or revising policies dealt with by the statement.13 Relevant responsible authorities must have regard to the policy statement on healthy homes principles when discharging their duties under the planning, building, and public health acts.14 “Relevant responsible authorities” include but are not limited to—(a) local planning authorities;(b) public health authorities;(c) urban development corporations;(d) new town development authorities;(e) the planning inspectorate;(f) Homes England.Annual monitoring
15 The Secretary of State must prepare a progress report for each annual reporting period.16 A progress report for an annual reporting period is a report on progress made in that period about the extent to which all new homes approved and completed during that period have met the healthy homes principles under paragraph 4.17 A progress report must include specific consideration of how the approval and creation of new homes has met the needs of those with protected characteristics under section 4 of the Equality Act 2010 (the protected characteristics).18 A progress report must include consideration of how progress could be improved.19 The Secretary of State must arrange for each progress report to be—(a) laid before Parliament, and(b) published.”

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill Debate

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Department: Leader of the House

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Lord Crisp Excerpts
Lord Ravensdale Portrait Lord Ravensdale (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interests as a director of Peers for the Planet and as a project director working for Atkins. I will speak to Motion M1. I thank the Minister for the time he set aside to explain the government position on this and attempt to reach a resolution.

Planning has dominated much of the national conversation in recent months. We heard in all three party conferences about the need for planning reform and for clarity and consistency in the planning system to help unblock critical infrastructure and homes, and to empower local authorities to play their part in the net-zero transition. Planning is absolutely central as an enabler to net zero, as was set out eloquently by many noble Lords on Report—so I will not repeat those arguments. I know that the Government get this; they are relying in the Bill on a plan-led system and on incorporation of climate considerations in local plans, and, perhaps in the future, on national development management policies.

There are three issues to highlight with this plan-led approach. First, the Committee on Climate Change has found that:

“Most local plans do not acknowledge … the challenge of delivering Net Zero and need significant revision”.

Most local plans are long out of date—some were made in the last millennium—and only around 40% have been adopted in the last decade. We know all about current pressures on local authorities and their ability to devote and manage resources in these areas. Secondly, we are yet to see the national development management policies and any climate provisions they may contain; they are still a blank sheet, as the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, set out. Thirdly, even if all local authorities had a robust local plan, backed up by NDMPs, there will still be an absence of a statutory duty for decision-makers. No matter how robust a local plan informed by national policy may be, it will still be for the individual decision-maker to weigh up all material considerations, with no duty to attribute any planning weight to climate change in the decision-making process. Therefore, rather than a golden thread running through the planning system, we have a somewhat worn and frayed thread that is severed as soon as we get to the decision-making process.

The way to address this and to achieve the ends the Government want is to introduce a new duty that raises the importance of climate change in the hierarchy of considerations but which would still retain flexibility for decision-makers. My amendment would not duplicate existing policy and statutory requirements but rather expand the existing climate duty, which has existed in relation to planning since 2008 and which has been rolled forward in this Bill to decision-making. The amendment would not remove local discretion, as the Government fear, but rather retain the ability of planning authorities to tailor planning decisions to individual circumstances. It would retain the flexibility of planning balance and judgment, which is now well established, and not mean that other planning matters could not be taken into account.

Rather than causing issues of litigation, as the Minister said, the amendment would provide clarity and set a clear direction of travel for planners and developers, leading to greater progress for new developments towards our climate goals. It is derisked by being based on an established duty, the meaning of which has been tried and tested in the courts. It does not raise any novel legal issues, because the principle of special regard is well understood in planning. Therefore, it really should be uncontroversial. It has broad, publicly stated backing across built environment businesses, local government, built environment professionals, including 22 past presidents of the Royal Town Planning Institute, and environmental NGOs.

To finish, I have a number of questions for the Minister. First, can he clarify and expand on what he said earlier about whether the draft NDMPs will include provisions setting out the way in which they will ensure that plan-making and planning decisions consider and contribute to climate change and environment targets? Secondly, can he provide assurances that changes will be proposed to the NPPF to make it clear that planning decisions should take into account the climate impacts of development proposals? The current NPPF does not include that level of clarity. I give notice that I may test the opinion of the House depending on the responses from the Minister.

Lord Crisp Portrait Lord Crisp (CB)
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My Lords, I will speak to Motion N1 in my name. In doing so, I express my gratitude to the noble Lords, Lord Young of Cookham, Lord Blunkett and Lord Stunell, who put their names to a similar amendment on Report. I also express my gratitude to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, and the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Bybrook, with whom I think I have had three meetings over the last few months to discuss all this. They were extremely courteous but, in the end, we did not manage to reach any agreement.

The original amendment that noble Lords supported on Report was that there would be a duty on the Secretary of State—to put it in shorthand—to ensure that all new homes and neighbourhoods promoted health, safety and well-being, and set out some principles about what this meant. In response to what the House of Commons voted on and the advice I had from the noble Earl, Lord Howe, I have taken out the principles in putting this forward and left instead the duty on the Secretary of State to ensure that the planning and regulation of the built environment should promote health and well-being. It is a very simple, straightforward point in its way, and it leaves the Secretary of State complete discretion as to when they bring this into effect and as to precisely what principles they work for in doing that. However, my point is simply that this is nowhere in planning, and the idea that the built environment should not in some way promote health, safety and well-being seems extraordinary. It is equally extraordinary that in this entire levelling-up Bill there is no reference to the climate crisis, as we have just heard, or indeed to the public health crisis, which I think we are all familiar with. This is an attempt to put health and well-being at the centre of planning.

In response to that, the Government have said three things. First, in the formal minute, they said that this breached the financial privilege of the Commons. That is entirely up to the Commons to decide. I subsequently reduced and removed the principles that I saw as perhaps the area the Commons thought breached that privilege. I understand from the noble Earl that the clerks still consider that it breaches privilege, but that is for the Commons to decide; they can still debate it and, if they choose, put it to one side and record the fact in something called “the journal”, in taking it forward. However, as I will say in a moment, building poor housing is a false economy.

The second point the Minister made was that much of what was in the original amendments was covered by other policy. That is entirely true, and I entirely respect the fact that the noble Earl and the Government want to improve the quality of homes and housing. However, it is important that we have some legislation around that and not just policy; nor does that put health and well-being at the heart of the policy. Most of it is not mandatory, and none ensures that health and well-being are fundamental to creating healthy homes and neighbourhoods.

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Moved by
Lord Crisp Portrait Lord Crisp
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At end insert “, and do propose Amendments 327B and 327C in lieu—

327B: After Clause 87, insert the following new Clause—
“Secretary of State’s duty to promote healthy homes and neighbourhoods
(1) 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 by ensuring the creation of healthy homes and neighbourhoods.
(2) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for a system of standards that promotes and secures healthy homes and neighbourhoods on condition that certain requirements prescribed in the regulations are met.”
327C: Clause 219, page 249, line 3, at end insert—
“(ba) under section (Secretary of State’s duty to promote healthy homes and neighbourhoods);””
Lord Crisp Portrait Lord Crisp (CB)
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My Lords, I wish to test the opinion of the House.