On 3rd May 2023, the House of Lords debated the Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill in committee. The Bishop of Exeter spoke in support of amendments to the bill tabled by Lord Greenhalgh, seeking to ensure that emergency services are considered during planning and reform:
The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, I rise in support Amendments 324, 329, 342, 346, 347, 351, 352 and 360 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Greenhalgh, and to which I have added my name. They concern planning reform and the emergency services.
A robust and effective planning process is essential for the flourishing of our communities. A key aspect of this is to ensure the adequate provision of emergency services. I welcome the fact that the Bill has included emergency services in the definition of infrastructure under Schedule 11, but, historically, this has not always been the case. It remains the fact that local authorities are not obliged to take into account the views and concerns of the emergency services.
Those living in new developments such as in Plymouth and Exeter, my own diocese, rightly expect to be provided with the same level of service and protection afforded to all citizens. The increased demands on the emergency services posed by new developments require additional funding. In this way, the emergency services are no different from any other infrastructure provider. However, the lack of recognition in legislation and national planning policy has made it extremely hard for emergency services to access funding from the infrastructure levy, Section 106 money and community infrastructure levy systems. The obvious result is that the services provided are diluted.
The Bill in its current form does not mitigate these problems and the thrust of these amendments seeks to address the historic disfranchisement of the emergency services in our planning processes. I am sure that all noble Lords will join me in recognising the vital contribution that those who work in the emergency services make to our common life. It should therefore be incumbent upon us to ensure that in the planning and formation of new developments, the emergency services have an equal seat at the planning table. I gladly support this.
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