Group claims existing law is bad for heritage and the environment

The Victorian Society is pushing for an amendment to the government’s Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill that would require planning permission for demolishing buildings. 

The amendment to the bill, currently at committee stage in the House of Lords, was put forward by Labour peer Baroness Andrews on behalf of the society, which claims existing planning law is bad for heritage and the environment. 


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The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill progressed to the House of Lords last year after Michael Gove caved in to Tory rebels’ demands

Current legislation allows most buildings to be knocked down without planning permission if they are not listed or in a conservation area and there is no requirement that anything be built on sites after demolition has taken place. 

Andrews, a former chair of English Heritage, also submitted a second, more limited, amendment which would only require planning permission to demolish heritage structures which have been locally listed by councils. 

Joe O’Donnell, Victorian Society director, said: “In the middle of both climate and housing emergencies we must focus on re-using our existing buildings rather than allowing them to be demolished without local communities having any say on what buildings stay or go.” 

He added that the existing tax regime – which includes 0% VAT on demolition and rebuild vs 20% VAT on repair and maintenance – created a perverse incentive for landowners and developers. 

“We hope the government will take this opportunity to support our amendment if it is serious about meeting its own legally binding net zero target we need to end the constant cycle of demolition and rebuild as soon as possible,” he said. 

According to the Green Building Council, construction, demolition and excavation activities generate approximately 60% of the UK’s waste. 

The purpose of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, as set out in the Queen’s speech 2022, is to “drive local growth, empowering local leaders to regenerate their areas, and ensuring everyone can share in the United Kingdom’s success”. 

Its progress into the House of Lords followed a flurry of backbench rebellions, one of which saw Michael Gove water down local housing targets. 

One of the major amendments made to the bill before it passed its second reading in the House of Commons in November means that money from the Infrastructure Levy will not be allowed to be spent on things other than infrastructure delivery. 

The government anticipates the bill to receive Royal Assent in the spring and a consultation on changes to the National Planning Policy Framework in the wake of the bill becoming law was closed yesterday. 

In its 20-page response to the consultation, architects’ body RIBA voiced fears about the proposed changes to national planning rules, claiming that the focus on preserving the ‘character’ of local areas and the promotion of ‘beauty’ in new development. 

The organisation also warned that the proposed relaxation of requirements for local authorities to demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable land for housing could slow the delivery of new homes.