Policy Round Up: May 2022
May was a politically turbulent month: the local elections at the start of a month saw significant losses for the Conservatives in councils across the country, whilst the publication of Sue Gray’s final report at the end of the May reignited the Partygate scandal at the heart of government. The Queen’s Speech also provided plenty for us to get our teeth into: in particular, the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which replaces the long-awaited Planning Bill, and the Energy Security Bill.
The government has committed to reviewing ‘the practical planning barriers that households can face when installing energy efficiency measures such as improved glazing, including in conservation areas and listed buildings’ by the end of 2022 and we are very much looking forward to working with BEIS, DLUHC and DCMS on this. The introduction of the Local Listed Building Consent Order (LLBCO) in Kensington & Chelsea earlier this year provided a good template for introducing sensitive and sensible measures to make it easier for Grade II listed properties to install solar PV panels, and we hope that more such measures will be rolled out on a wider scale.
The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill poses multiple challenges: not least the fact that some of the commitments in the Planning White Paper have now been dropped. We are also concerned by Clause 95 in the Bill, which proposes to remove the need for compensation to be paid to owners who are subject to an incorrect Building Preservation Notice: we will be campaigning to have this clause removed, and instead to have proper interim protection measures introduced.
We have also submitted consultations to the Office for Tax Simplification on the proposed introduction of an Online Sales Tax and to their Property Income review, as well as continuing to work with colleagues across the heritage sector to ensure that members’ voices are being heard and to work together wherever possible.
The introduction of new thresholds for short term / holiday lets and an increased council tax on second homes in Wales has been on our radar too: we were disappointed to see the Welsh Government’s decision to plough ahead with the 182 day threshold and hope to see exemptions introduced which will ensure that non ‘honeypot’ regions will not be unfairly penalised by these new regulations. It was also great to attend the first in-person Scottish Business Committee meeting since the pandemic!
As we head into the Jubilee weekend, it is good to hear reports of busy historic houses and gardens, and to see all that members are doing over the long weekend to celebrate and commemorate the Platinum Jubilee. June promises to be a busy month as AGM season begins and the political uncertainty looks set to continue in the short term at least.
Sarah, Policy & Education Officer