On 3rd May 2023, the House of Lords debated the Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill in committee. The Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich spoke in support of amendments to the bill tabled by Lord Best and Lady Warwick, and supported by the Bishop of Chelmsford, relating to housing development and the infrastructure levy:
The Lord Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich: My Lords, I support Amendment 335 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, and Amendments 336 and 337 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Best, to which my colleague the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford has added her name as the Church of England’s lead bishop for housing. I am aware, as others have commented, that we are touching on matters that will arise again in the 10th group.
Amendment 335 would address a significant weak spot in the infrastructure levy. As the Bill stands, there is no meaningful protection of developer contributions to the infrastructure levy for affordable and social housing. The amendment would remove the risk of infrastructure levy regulations diverting funds away from such housing provision.
I am glad to support Amendment 337 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Best. Together with Amendments 338 and 339, it would remove a portion of Schedule 11 containing wide-ranging provision for the examination of charging schedules for the infrastructure levy.
At an earlier point in our proceedings I was pleased to speak in support of the noble Lord’s Amendments 221 and 207, both of which seek to provide for greater inclusion of older people’s needs in development planning in the Secretary of State’s role and at the level of local authorities. Amendment 336 is a further critical piece to address the challenge of growing needs in our increasingly ageing population and the housing crisis. In enabling the charging authority to consider additional evidence, its ability to determine the viability of developments, including older people’s housing, will be better informed. It is particularly key that such developments are given due and quality consideration as we face growing need.
The Lord Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich: My Lords, I will speak—briefly again, I hope—in support of Amendments 326, 327 and 334 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, and Amendments 344 and 350 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Best, which have also been supported by my right reverend colleague the Bishop of Chelmsford.
The Church of England is committed—as noble Lords have just heard—to working to increase the provision of social housing, and these amendments would greatly improve the infrastructure levy to ensure that it is working to generate a good supply of truly affordable housing.
As we have heard, in its current form the infrastructure levy risks a serious reduction in the delivery of affordable housing and homes for social rent through the planning system. Despite this concerning impact, detail on how the proposed levy would work remains very thin. There are a number of fundamental issues that need to be addressed. These amendments would be a step in the right direction to doing so.
Amendment 326 introduces a mechanism for the delivery of onsite affordable housing and an in-kind levy payment, which would allow local authorities to ensure that their local housing needs are met. Amendment 327 excepts developments that contain 100% affordable housing from liability to pay the infrastructure levy, which would allow for the provision of affordable housing to go unimpeded by any diversion of funds, and also incentivise developers to invest in affordable housing plans.
Amendments 344 and 350 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Best, would introduce critical improvements to the infrastructure levy. Tying the application of the infrastructure levy to the level of affordable housing requirement identified in the local development plan, as Amendment 344 would do, is a necessary step to ensure that the levy truly addresses local housing needs. Linked to this, Amendment 350 would ensure that at least 75% of the levy would be used to meet such local affordable housing needs as identified by local development plans. As we have heard, there are currently 4.2 million people in need of social housing in England. It is crucial that the infrastructure levy and the accompanying changes to the planning system improve the delivery of new affordable housing.
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