Following last Tuesdays queen's speech regarding the levelling up bill, Tim has written an article around the subject for React News, which you can read below. 


Last Tuesday’s Queen’s Speech could be a significant moment for property, with its focus on levelling up, regeneration and changes to the planning system, but to ensure this ambitious programme is delivered we need to keep the government’s feet close to the fire.


It was right that the capital benefited from Crossrail and the 2012 London Olympics because they built ‘Brand London’ to an international peak, and as the motor for the UK over the past 20 years we all benefited from London’s success.


But there comes a time when levelling up is not only right for quality but also for the country as we make the most of unused skills and assets. Who could genuinely argue that the UK really needs Crossrail 2 running from Surrey to Hertfordshire at a cost of £30bn+ more than improving east-west rail links across the North of England?


So, levelling up as a principle is good and there is no reason why this should mean London ‘levels down’. It should be a win-win.


“Who could genuinely argue that the UK needs Crossrail 2 running from Surrey to Hertfordshire more than improving rail links across the North?”


If health, education and town and city centres improve outside the south-east the Treasury’s tax take will grow, and with fewer people persuaded to move to London that would also ease the capital’s affordable housing crisis.


It is shocking that, with the Bank of England forecasting the biggest annual fall in living standards for at least three decades, London rents are rising 13% annually and City Hall figures show that just 1,673 affordable homes were started between April and September 2021.


We are already beginning to see a regional renaissance outside London reflected in the amount of people returning to work in the biggest regional cities. Footfall in England’s major cities is now estimated to be at 75% compared with pre-pandemic levels while Central London continues at 50%.


So, it is good news that devolution was a key point in the bill introduced lastweek, with a new model to provide local leaders with powers to enhance local accountability, join up services and provide transparent decision-making to rejuvenate their communities.


While London’s mayor Sadiq Khan currently earns mixed reviews, across the North we see the benefit of strong regional leadership and welcome the levelling up secretary’s mission to offer a devolution deal to every part of England by 2030.
Sheffield city mayor Dan Jarvis has done a good job since 2018, and secured an impactful devolution deal for the South Yorkshire region giving power over transport, strategic planning and skills.


In Manchester Andy Burnham has effectively tackled homelessness, attracted inward investment and won the backing of many by battling for the city during the depths of the Covid lockdowns – so we welcome further devolution being enshrined in this bill.


As expected, the levelling up bill contains one of the government’s flagship planning proposals – a new infrastructure levy to replace the current Section 106 and CIL arrangements.


The aim of simplifying the planning system by introducing a standard levy merits discussion, but the government must understand that a one size fits all approach will not work across areas all areas of the UK.


The new levy must be flexible enough in application to enable and stimulate such vital regeneration schemes rather than kill them at conception.


“Street votes open the door to unwarranted opposition to development. This idea must not stifle housing delivery or growth”


The government is right to focus on simplifying the planning system, with a renewed focus on making sure that up-to-date local plans are in place. This is essential for the private sector to invest with confidence. Digitisation of the planning system is long overdue and welcome.


However, we do have some concerns about proposals to allow residents to vote on neighbours’ planning applications, which opens the door to opposition to development that is not warranted. This idea must not stifle housing delivery or growth.


We also welcome the aims of the transport bill announced in the Queen’s Speech, which pledges to “improve transport across the United Kingdom” and deliver “safer, cleaner services and enabling more innovations”. Legislation will be introduced to “modernise rail services and improve reliability”.


I am a Yorkshireman and after 20-plus years working in Central London real estate it has been an absolute pleasure to return to my roots at Henry Boot, whose headquarters is in Sheffield.


But seeing the sorry state of east-west rail links in the North has been an eye-opener for me, and improving links between Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and the big cities of the north-east cannot happen soon enough – not least if we are going to hit our country’s net zero targets.


Levelling up – in particular, a dramatic scaling up of devolution and a big improvement in our transport networks and planning systems – is crucial to powering regeneration and improving equality across the UK.