New laws to support growth through investment and infrastructure
Thursday 18 October 2012
PM: We are slashing unnecessary bureaucracy, giving business the confidence to invest, unlocking big infrastructure projects and supporting hardworking people to realise their dreams.
The Government is introducing new laws today as part of a drive to support growth and ensure the country can compete globally. The laws are introduced on the day a leading British developer, Land Securities, announces it will proceed with an estimated £350 million scheme that will deliver 2,500 jobs as a result of Government changes to the planning system, introduced this week.
The new Growth and Infrastructure Bill brings together a range of measures that are expected unlock billions of pounds worth of investment and create thousands of jobs.
The Prime Minister said:
“The Bill we are publishing today is all about helping our country compete in the global race and building an aspiration nation where we back those who want to get on life.
“We are slashing unnecessary bureaucracy, giving business the confidence to invest, unlocking big infrastructure projects and supporting hardworking people to realise their dreams.
“Already the changes we are making to the planning system are having an impact, with Land Securities giving the go-ahead to a major multi-million pound investment, supporting thousands of jobs in our construction industry. No one should be in any doubt about our determination to make sure Britain, and the British people, rise in the 21st century.”
Land Securities Chief Executive Robert Noel said:
“It is heartening to know that Government has listened to the industry and acted to remove some of the uncertainty in the planning process. It enables us to take forward the development of the former Kingsgate House site and continue our transformation of Victoria to a distinct and vibrant West End hub.
“Despite the economic uncertainty in the wider economy, we continue to invest in the UK based on our clear plan to build space where we see demand. Our plans are good for us, good for the UK and good for jobs. In taking this scheme forward we will ensure that we continue to make employment opportunities available in order to enable out-of-work Londoners to meet their full potential.”
The measures include:
Reforming planning to unlock infrastructure
These reforms will facilitate the creation of thousands of new jobs and encourage billions of pounds of new investment in energy projects, including £160 million in new gas market infrastructure.
Currently, developers can be held back from improving their plans because they have no way to vary consents. So, for instance, if a developer wants to incorporate the most recent technology and design to increase energy efficiency, they may be prevented from doing so. This can prevent developers from being as ambitious and innovative as they would like. An amend to the Electricity Act will mean that if developers want to apply to change their projects, they will in most cases only need to undertake a three month consultation, rather than going through the whole process of applying for consent again. This could unlock investment decisions across a range of technologies, bringing thousands of new jobs and billions of pounds of investment to the UK economy.
Second, Government will remove an ambiguity to the Gas Act which has prevented Ofgem from launching an innovation competition that could attract £160 million of additional investment into the gas network to make it more efficient.
In addition, Energy Secretary Edward Davey has updated business leaders at the CBI on ambitious reforms Government is proposing to the electricity market. These reforms, published in the forthcoming Energy Bill, will unlock £110 billion of new investment, keep consumers bills down and meet climate change targets, whilst supporting jobs, investment and sustainable growth.
Backing people who want to own their own home
Stalled housing site projects are a problem, however, allowing the reconsideration of economically unrealistic ‘Section 106’ agreements, whilst guaranteeing existing affordable housing commitments, could get these projects moving again. Such measures could lead to the completion of 75,000 homes.
Cutting back the volume of paperwork which applicants have to submit with a planning application, which go over and above what is reasonably needed to inform planners about the proposed development.
Stopping misuse of legislation to slow down agreed developments, whilst protecting its use to safeguard cherished community spaces.
Implementing the recommendations from the Penfold review to remove other over-lapping development consent regimes, where multiple state permissions are needed on top of planning permission.
Speeding up the planning system for large scale business and commercial projects. Where developers choose the fast-track route, decisions will be taken in twelve months. Existing requirements to consult local communities are retained.
Backing aspiration by creating more employee owners
Creating a new optional ‘employee-owner’ status for companies to offer, giving workers a financial stake in their firm’s growth and success through tax-free shares.
Backing businesses by helping them compete
Preventing unexpected hikes in business rates on local firms over the next five years. Tax stability is vital as business rates are the third biggest outgoing for firms.
Background on Land Securities
Land Securities has announced that it will start construction of two new developments to replace the former Kingsgate House on Victoria Street as part of its commitment to the regeneration of Victoria.
The circa £350 million scheme will deliver two new buildings, comprising a 190,000 sq ft office building which will be called The Zig Zag Building, reflecting the staggered façade and a separate residential building of 100 luxury apartments called Kings Gate. The construction phase estimated to support 2,500 jobs.
Land Securities’ decision comes as a result of a Government change to planning laws (amended secondary legislation introduced this week) that will mean developers will no longer be double charged a planning levy –often in the millions of pounds – for local infrastructure.
The double charging has been identified by large scale developers as disproportionate and a major barrier for developing sites, making key proposals economically unviable.
Under the proposed change, developers will be able to amend planning applications to make them market viable without having to pay another ‘community infrastructure levy’. It is estimated that many sites across the country may benefit from the change.
The commitment to build The Zig Zag building and Kings Gate will see Land Securities further extend its innovative employment programme which offers training opportunities in construction and ring-fences jobs designed to get the long-term unemployed, young people and ex-offenders back into work.