London Councils issues warning over planning reform in Queen's Speech

Queen Elizabeth II leaves Buckingham Palace by car to deliver the Queen's Speech during the State Op

Queen Elizabeth II leaves Buckingham Palace by car to deliver the Queen's Speech during the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster. - Credit: PA

A number of new initiatives have been introduced in the Queen's speech.

This annual speech - delivered on May 11 by the long-standing monarch - marks the state opening of Parliament.

The Queen set out the government's legislative agenda for the coming months, which pointedly focus on education and skills, but also included reforms to the planning and electoral systems.

While normally an event of ceremony, the coronavirus pandemic put paid to the Queen's usual horse and cart arrival. 

Instead, she made the short journey to the Palace of Westminster in a Bentley limousine.

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Delivering the speech from the throne in the House of Lords, the Queen said the government’s "priority" is to deliver a "national recovery from the pandemic that makes the United Kingdom stronger, healthier and more prosperous than before".

She said: "My ministers will oversee the fastest ever increase in public funding for research and development and pass legislation to establish an advanced research agency.

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"Following the unprecedented support provided to businesses during the pandemic, proposals will be brought forward to create and support jobs and improve regulation.

"My government will strengthen the economic ties across the union, investing in and improving national infrastructure. Proposals will be taken forward to transform connectivity by rail and bus and to extend 5G mobile coverage and gigabit capable broadband.

"Legislation will support a lifetime skills guarantee to enable flexible access to high-quality education and training throughout people’s lives."

Among the key takeaways is the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill; the new legislation which aims to offer lifelong learning for everyone.

Significantly for London, reforms to the planning system were formalised.

Under these new plans, areas will be designated for protection, regeneration or growth, with areas in the latter category more likely to be earmarked for development.

London Councils has already issued a warning to these reforms.

Its executive member for housing and planning, councillor Darren Rodwell, said: “The government’s complete overhaul of the English planning system is a complete disaster in the making.

“We’re desperate for more affordable housing in the capital – but these reforms risk making the situation worse."

The leader of Barking and Dagenham Council continued: “Councils play a crucial role in the planning system, upholding quality standards and ensuring new development includes affordable housing for our communities.

"With around 50,000 planning applications granted by London boroughs each year, we’re doing our best to facilitate the new housing the capital needs.

“Our concern is that ripping up planning regulations will only lead to more slum housing built to maximise profits rather than address Londoners’ needs.

"There’s so much more the government should be doing to invest in affordable housing and to support local councils’ housebuilding ambitions.”

Another issue which was addressed involves the calling of early general elections.

The Queen outlined plans to move forward with the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill, which would repeal the current legislation which precludes a prime minister from calling for an early general election (without supermajority backing in the Commons).

In reference to the ongoing overhaul of building regulations in the UK, the Queen said the government programme would “ensure the tragedies of the past are never repeated”.

Other highlights include a commitment to the roll out of high-speed broadband across the country, and to create more green jobs with the 2050 target for net zero in mind.

Notably, there was a relative lack of emphasis on social care, an issue many consider in need of legal remedy.

The Monarch only mentioned the issue briefly in the government-penned speech: "Proposals on social care reform will be brought forward."

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