The background to Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill spans three Prime Ministers and two Secretaries of State and has been much delayed. But earlier this week, the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill finally had its Second Reading in the Lords.
It is a wide-ranging Bill which forms the legislative underpinning for the Government's levelling-up agenda and a framework for a long-term plan of action and policy regime to reduce economic, social and environmental disparities in different parts of the UK and includes major changes to our planning regime and local devolution.
Peers from across the parties proposed a number of areas where the Bill could provide an opportunity to ensure that our net zero and nature targets are fully embedded and integrated across both the levelling-up agenda and our planning system.
In particular, there is little mention of nature in the Bill in spite of the opportunity to deliver nature restoration through the planning system whilst also bringing improved health and wellbeing outcomes. There are also opportunities to link levelling-up to the development of green skills and for decarbonisation of our energy system, buildings and transport to contribute positively to communities across the country.
“There is a huge opportunity to deliver the Government’s own promises to uphold COP 15 commitments and to revitalise the protected landscapes for nature, climate and people”. Lord Randall of Uxbridge, Conservative
“It is a Bill in which the Government take greater powers for themselves, yet they do not once mention mitigation of, or adaptation to, climate change, or put in the Bill their wish to safeguard our natural capital”. Baroness Sheehan, Lib Dem
“This is a big Bill at 408 pages, yet most of its elements make no mention of climate change or biodiversity declines. People in areas of greatest economic disadvantage experience further disadvantage from poor-quality environments…yet there is no mention in the Government’s levelling-up missions of climate change and biodiversity and ecosystem decline”. Baroness Young of Old Scone, Labour
On the Government consultation on reforms to the national planning policy....please could provisions be included in the Bill to fully align our planning system with net zero at every decision-making level and to demonstrate that government leadership and commitment are really about delivering net zero, as well as social benefit?” Baroness Boycott, Crossbench
The Lords Minister in the Department for Levelling Up, Baroness Scott of Bybrook, responded to the debate assuring Peers that the Government recognises the challenge of climate change and that it is critical that the planning system addresses this effectively. She said the Government’s review of the National Planning Policy Framework will also ensure it contributes to climate change mitigation and adaptation as fully as possible and support the ambitions in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill.
The Bill will now move to Committee stage in the House of Lords for further scrutiny.