The Queen’s Speech delivered to both Houses of Parliament on 27 May 2015 marked the Conservative Government’s first opportunity to outline its key reforms aimed at delivering the mandate it received at this month’s General Election.
The Government’s priorities will be delivered through a number of new Bills as follows.
The new Housing Bill will introduce a statutory register for brownfield land, which is intended to help bring forward new housing schemes. The Government will seek to achieve the target of having Local Development Orders in place on 90% on suitable brownfield sites by 2020.
The introduction of a statutory register for brownfield land was last proposed by Margaret Thatcher’s Government in the early 1990s. It was dropped after protests from the property industry on the basis that land on such a register could be blighted. Paradoxically, therefore, this could have the unintended effect of holding back new housing schemes. We expect that this proposal will be the subject of similar objections.
The proposed Energy Bill will seek to ‘increase energy security’ by establishing a new Oil and Gas Authority (“OGA”) as an independent regulator which will be charged with the asset stewardship and regulation of oil and gas recovery in the UK. Environmental regulation stays with the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
In addition, the power to determine planning applications for large scale onshore wind farms (those over 50MW) in England and Wales will be devolved to local planning authorities, in an effort to allow local constituencies to have greater control over these forms of development, by removing the requirement for consent from the Secretary of State. This proposed reform will not apply to Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Also, the Government will separately deliver on its commitment to end subsidies for new onshore wind farms.
The Northern Powerhouse
The Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill will be introduced to devolve certain powers to cities with elected metropolitan mayors, in an effort develop a Northern Powerhouse. The devolution of certain powers regarding transport, housing and policing will seek to boost growth and productivity in these regions.
These aims are supported by the construction of phase 1 of the High Speed 2 (“HS2”) railway via the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill, which will grant planning permission for the HS2 project.
Paris 2015 Climate Change Conference
As part of its commitment to an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 from 1990 levels, the Government is seeking to agree a new global climate change agreement in Paris during the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference to take effect 2020. Any agreement may have material impacts upon the operation of the EU ETS and the carbon market generally. For the first time in a number of years, there is a high expectation that the annual UN Conference on Climate Change will deliver a legally binding replacement to the Kyoto Protocol which expired in 2012.