The Construction Industry Council (CIC) urged government to stay the course with its Levelling Up agenda and embrace the potential of the construction industry to deliver for communities.
CIC’s comments are part of its submission to the Public Bill Committee which has been considering the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill as it goes through the House of Commons.
The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, published on 11 May 2022, aims to drive local growth, empower local leaders to regenerate their areas, and ensure everyone can share in the United Kingdom’s success. It covers areas such as town and country planning, regeneration, local democracy and the Community Infrastructure Levy.
CIC believes that the construction industry should play a pivotal role in Levelling Up by delivering a retrofitting revolution and providing much-needed housing that is well designed, well-constructed and safe.
The response expressed some concerns about how these aims could be delivered by the Bill, most pointedly with regard to the urgent need to boost skills and resources, and also noting that the Bill is somewhat scant on housing delivery, particularly affordable housing. It was felt that a lack of resources and skills within planning departments had already lead to the shortfall in preparing and adopting up-to-date local plans, and that communities would benefit from local planning department staff having all the skills - including digital - that they needed to deliver.There was some scepticism regarding the need for a new Infrastructure Levy when some of government’s aims could be achieved through amendments to the Section 106 agreement mechanism.
CIC noted that with the ‘cost of living’ crisis now requiring urgent government intervention, upgrading the energy efficiency of existing homes through repair, maintenance and improvement (RMI) work should be an integral part of Levelling Up plans. This work is grounded within local supply chains, supports local businesses by acting as a gateway to further domestic or commercial projects and frees up disposable income to be spent within local economies.
The submission also endorsed the view of the Local Government Association (LGA) that supporting councils to build a new generation of high-quality, energy efficient council homes had to be a national priority.
On climate change and biodiversity, CIC urged government to listen to its scientific advisors. It expressed concerns that a failure to account for growing climate risks on a local level could negate the Levelling Up agenda. Reducing carbon emissions through retrofitting was only one part of the climate challenge and it is critical that both new and existing buildings are future-proofed for resilience.
The full response can be found here.