Derek Thomas MP has welcomed the Levelling Up Bill, which has reached its final stages in the Commons today before it heads across to the Lords.
Levelling Up has been called the “defining mission” of the Conservative government, and a key part of the 2019 manifesto. It means ensuring that opportunity is available for every part of the country, including rural and coastal communities – like those of West Cornwall.
The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is the first stage in delivering opportunity by giving more power to local authorities and reforming the planning system.
Cornwall will benefit from a devolution deal – giving Cornwall Council more freedom to tailor services to local needs, support local businesses and create jobs – and the ability to double council tax on second homes and empty houses. The bill also removes the loophole where second homes could register as businesses to avoid paying council tax.
In its final stages, the bill was amended to incorporate amendments from Conservative backbenchers – including Derek, who sponsored changes to the bill to strengthen local decision-making on planning matters.
As a result of the amendments Derek sponsored, the Levelling Up Bill will:
- introduce a registration scheme for short term lets in England, which would be discretionary for local authorities. The scheme will be finalised next year, with the intention of giving councils more control over the number of holiday lets in their communities;
- give local authorities the power to determine how many homes can be built, taking into account local housing needs and what should be protected – including agricultural land, local character or heritage assets;
- strengthen local plans so that communities will not be exposed to speculative developments – enabling decisions to made locally on where homes are built and what needs to be protected;
- give local authorities the ability to provide incentives – like lower rates of Infrastructure Levy – for brownfield over greenfield development; and
- relax restrictions on wind farms so that local authorities can (but do not have to) designate sites that are suitable for onshore wind.
The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Michael Gove, also agreed to consult on reviewing the Use Classes Order so that places such as Cornwall can require planning permission for a house to become a holiday let.
“Levelling Up is vital for Cornwall – and the Levelling Up Bill gives Cornwall Council more say on what matters to us.
“The Bill has been improved during its passage, and I am thankful the Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove took on board our comments, and made the amendments we asked for.
“When you empower a local community to fashion and design its own destiny, people step forward, giving their time to meet the challenge and win the arguments.
“Cornwall should decide how much housing Cornwall needs, so that the right houses are built in the right places.”