Levelling-up bill made law with major reforms across the built and natural environment
Updated: Nov 15
The Levelling-Up and Regeneration Act 2023 finally received Royal Assent on 26 October. The Act contains over 530 pages of detail, enshrining into law the legislative underpinning for the Government’s levelling-up agenda.
The Bill saw over 750 amendments tabled as it progressed through parliament, with cross-party Peers proposing amendments to a number of areas where the Bill could embed our net zero and nature targets across the levelling-up agenda, including within our planning system.
During its progression, and in the concluding stages of this wide-ranging Bill, Peers secured amendments, Government concessions and drove the debate on a number of areas critical to decarbonisation and nature recovery, including:
Protecting our waterways by rejecting Government amendments proposing to weaken environmental protections around nutrient neutrality (which ensure that where new housing developments are built, they do not increase the pollution of waterways).
Better aligning our planning regime with our climate and environment targets (you can read Lord Ravensdale’s article on the case for reform), by securing a concession requiring the Secretary of State to have regard to the need to mitigate and adapt to climate change when drafting new National Development Management Policies. The Government also confirmed plans to carry out a review of the NPPF to ensure it contributes to climate mitigation and adaptation as fully as possible following Royal Assent.
Strengthening the links between our planning system and nature protection and recovery. Concessions secured include provisions tying protected landscape management plans to environmental targets; requiring local authorities to take account of local nature recovery strategies in plan making; and requiring consultation of the Secretary of State on planning permission for development affecting ancient woodland.
Advancing debates on policy options to deliver clean energy solutions in terms of both supply and demand, across onshore wind, solar and energy efficiency measures. This included highlighting that recent changes to onshore wind rules would not be sufficient to remove barriers to development in practice, with Peers securing new assurances that the new policy would be kept under close scrutiny and, specifically, that the Government would report on this within 18 months of Royal Assent.
Demonstrating the multiple and interlinked benefits of greener homes and access to nature on our physical and mental health, by leading amendments to give the Secretary of State a duty to promote healthy homes and neighbourhoods.
The outcomes in the Act will have tangible impacts on our everyday lives and provide a foundation to push for further ambitious policies to incentivise regeneration and reduce economic, social, and environmental disparities across the UK.