In issue 2 of the Planning Bulletin (Autumn 2007) we reported on the Government taking the unusual step of publishing a draft legislative programme. As a result there were few surprises in the Queen’s Speech and no surprise that planning professionals can expect a further busy period of reform ahead of them. It is also clear that the Department for Communities and Local Government will be taking responsibility for some of the most significant Bills to be introduced in this session of Parliament, which are summarised below.

The Bills

The Planning Reform Bill

There will also be a Bill to reform the planning system, providing for quicker and more transparent decision-making…’ This Bill will:

  • establish an infrastructure planning commission and define its powers and functions;
  • establish a single consent regime for nationally significant infrastructure and a streamlined process for considering applications;
  • contain statutory requirements on the content of and consultation upon national infrastructure policy statements;
  • impose a statutory requirement for developers of infrastructure to consult communities before submitting applications; and
  • make changes to the processing of local development plan documents and establish arrangements for local authorities to determine appeals on minor planning applications.

The Housing and Regeneration Bill

‘Available and affordable housing is one of my government’s main priorities. Legislation will be introduced to create a new Homes and Communities Agency that will deliver more social and affordable housing, and promote regeneration.’

This Bill will: 

  • support the delivery of three million new homes by 2020 by creating the Homes and Communities Agency;
  • provide powers for the new Agency to lead the delivery of major projects, such as an eco-town;
  • create a new Office for Tenants and Social Landlords; and
  • take forward other measures to support the delivery of the commitments in the Housing Green Paper, to empower tenants and improve housing services.

Climate Change Bill

‘My government will publish a Bill on climate change as part of its policy to protect the environment, consistent with the need to secure long-term energy supplies.’

The draft Bill was published on 13 March 2007 for pre-legislative scrutiny and public consultation and had its first reading in the House of Lords on 14 November. It will:

  • put on a statutory basis the UK’s domestic targets to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 60% by 2050 and 26-32% by 2020, against a 1990 baseline; 
  • create binding limits known as carbon budgets on aggregate CO2 emissions over five-year periods;
  • create a new independent Committee on Climate Change to advise on the setting of carbon budgets; the meeting the 2050 target; and reporting annually on progress;
  • contain enabling powers to introduce new trading schemes through secondary legislation;
  • create a new system of annual Government reporting to Parliament in response to the annual report by the Committee on Climate Change on the UK’s progress; and
  • require the Government to assess the risks that climate change poses to the UK and to report to Parliament on these risks and on its programme to address them.

Energy Bill 

'My government will introduce legislation to provide clean, secure and affordable supplies of energy.’

The Bill follows ‘The Energy Challenge’ White Paper, which was published in May 2007 and will:

  • strengthen the regulatory framework to enable private sector investment in gas supply projects;
  • create a regulatory framework to enable private sector investment in carbon capture and storage projects; and
  • strengthen the Renewables Obligation.

If private sector investment in new nuclear power stations is to proceed following the end of the current round of consultation on this, then this Bill would create a framework to protect the taxpayer by requiring owners to cover decommissioning and waste management costs.

Local Transport Bill

‘There will be legislation to tackle congestion and improve public transport.’

This was introduced in draft form in May 2007 for public consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny and had its first reading in the Lords on 7 November 2007. The Bill contains provisions to amend the legal frameworks relating to:

  • the responsibilities of local authorities in relation to local transport policies and plans;
  • the operation of local bus services and related matters, including provisions relating to traffic commissioners;
  • the constitution and functions of Passenger Transport Authorities, which are renamed as Integrated Transport Authorities; and 
  • the establishment and operation of local and London road user charging schemes (commonly referred to as ‘local road pricing schemes’).

Marine Bill

‘My government is committed to protecting the environment…’

This follows the publication of a Marine Bill White Paper in March 2007. The Bill will:

  • create a new system of marine planning and handling the growth in offshore developments across a range of sectors;
  • streamline marine licensing arrangements; and
  • put in place new nature conservation measures to protect and restore marine areas, species and habitats.

One Bill notable by its absence was the Planning Gain Supplement Bill – see the separate item on this in this Bulletin.