NEIGHBOURHOOD PLANNING AND INFRASTRUCTURE BILL
This bill aims to help the Government deliver one million new homes. The main elements will include legislation to strengthen neighbourhood planning, limit the use of pre-commencement planning conditions to speed up housebuilding and to establish a new framework for agreeing compensation paid on compulsory purchase.
See City Regions - The Return of Strategic Planning for more information.
PRIVATISATION OF THE LAND REGISTRY
The Government announced an intention to privatise the Land Registry during the Autumn Statement 2015 and a consultation closed on 26 May 2016. The Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill will include provision for this.
A number of organisations and individuals have already expressed concerns about the risks of this, echoing the sentiments expressed when the last coalition Government sought to privatise the Land Registry. The Competition & Markets Authority has expressed concern that the new owner would have a monopoly of Land Registry data and no incentive to improve access to it; the Open Data Institute has stated it is concerned about quality control in the collection of data and the potential for fraud. We share these concerns and worry that the Government is prioritising the upfront capital receipt the sell-off will bring over longer-term interests.
DIGITAL ECONOMY BILL
The aim of the Digital Economy Bill is to make the UK a world leader in digital provision. The main elements of the bill are:
- The introduction of a right for every household to access high speed broadband with a proposed minimum speed of 10Mbps initially.
- A new Electronic Communications Code; this is the law which covers equipment used to transmit electronic communications, including mobile phone signals. The Government aims to cut the cost and simplify the building of mobile and superfast broadband infrastructure. See Reforms on the horizon for the Electronic Communications Code for further information.
- New and simpler planning rules for building broadband infrastructure.
LOCAL GROWTH AND JOBS BILL
The Local Growth and Jobs Bill will allow local authorities to retain 100% of their business rates increasing the incentive for them to grow their local economies. It will also strengthen local councils’ powers to cut business rates for local firms and give combined authority Mayors the power to raise additional funding for infrastructure if supported by local businesses. It is hoped that this legislation will lead to the reinvigoration of towns and their high streets.
HIGH SPEED RAIL (LONDON-WEST MIDLANDS) BILL: THE NEXT PHASE
This bill was published in November 2013 to provide the Government with the legal powers to construct and operate Phase One of the high speed railway, HS2, including deemed planning permission for the railway between London and the West Midlands.
The bill is expected to receive Royal Assent by the end of this year.
DRAFT LAW OF PROPERTY BILL
The Government proposes to respond to the recommendations of the Law Commission to simplify the law around easements, covenants and profits à prendre with a view to introducing a draft Law of Property Bill.
If the Law Commission’s recommendations are implemented these reforms will allow the benefit and burden of positive obligations to be enforced by and against subsequent owners. They will also simplify and clarify the rules on the acquisition and termination of easements, give greater flexibility to developers to establish interconnected rights and obligations over parcels of land in larger development schemes and allow the creation of easements that allow a substantial use of land eg. car parks.
The Government intends to deliver a clearer, more stable devolution settlement for Wales and proposes to devolve to Welsh ministers powers relating to environmental and planning regimes. These include the licensing of onshore oil and gas exploration (including fracking), the construction, operation and management of harbours, the approval of all onshore wind and up to 350 megawatts for all other onshore and offshore energy projects and associated development consent for power projects, marine licensing and marine conservation. It is likely that once these powers are devolved, the laws affecting these areas may take a different form from the laws applying in England.
The Government continues its commitment to the Northern Powerhouse - its vision for the North of England - based on the principle that while the individual cities and towns of the North are strong, if their strengths are pooled, they could be stronger than the sum of their parts. The Government proposes the investment in better transport to connect up the North, backing strengths in science and innovation, investing in culture, housing and the quality of life and devolving powers and budgets to elected mayors.
This is all legislation which is likely to come to fruition in the 2016-17 parliamentary session and we will keep you updated as it happens.