With all the political news focusing on the UK budget last week, you might have missed some amendments being made to the government’s Levelling Up Bill which will have implications for the construction industry.

Alongside measures that are supposed to help regenerate communities, speed up the delivery of new homes, improve wastewater facilities and give local people a greater say in how their neighbourhood looks, the government have presented what they’re calling BIDEN principles which should be applied to all new developments.

Intrigued as to what this means, we thought we’d find out more and use this week’s blog to explain.

The BIDEN principles

When we heard this term being used, our first thought was this must be somehow related to something that the US President, Joe Biden, once said in relation to building developments.

We were wrong!

In this case, ‘Biden’ is actually an acronym for a set of principles which the Housing Secretary, Michael Gove, says he wants developments in the UK to adhere to. So, that means making sure new developments:

  • are Beautiful,
  • have the right Infrastructure,
  • are Democratically supported by local communities,
  • enhance the Environment,
  • and create better Neighbourhoods.

Housing Minister Lucy Frazer said:

“The measures we are setting out today will put protecting the environment at the heart of our plans, while bringing forward much needed new homes across the country. We will make sure that new development is surrounded by the right infrastructure and that local people are given an opportunity to shape their neighbourhood.” 

Going forwards, the proposed amendments will have an impact on the ways in which builders operate and in what councils and local people can do in relation to planning proposals. Some of the key points include:

  • Tackling ‘land banking’ (where land is acquired for a potential future pay-out rather than for immediate build) as well as slow build-outs by developers to make sure much needed new homes are delivered. In an attempt to achieve this, developers will have to report annually to councils on their progress and councils will have new powers to block planning proposals from builders who have failed to deliver on the same land.
  • Making it a legal obligation for water companies to clean up rivers by upgrading wastewater treatment works (so as to reduce phosphorus loads and nitrogen loads). These upgrades are designed to enable housebuilding to be unlocked by reducing the amount of mitigation developers must provide to offset nutrient pollution.
  • Giving residents a new tool to propose additional development on their street, like extensions to existing homes, through ‘street votes’. Planning permission will only be granted when an independent examiner is satisfied that certain requirements, such as on design, have been met and the proposal is endorsed at a referendum by the immediate community. Another amendment will allow pilot Community Land Auctions – a means of capturing value from land that has been allocated in the development plan for local communities.
  • Enhancing powers for mayors to support them in managing their key route networks and increasing transport connectivity across their area.
  • Helping nationally significant infrastructure projects such as wind farms and new major transport links be delivered more quickly, by enabling a small number of public bodies to charge for their statutory services to help them provide better, reliable, quality advice to developers and support faster planning decisions.

Response from the industry

Some of these proposals have been cautiously welcomed by those in the construction industry, for example, the measures designed to address water quality which is thought to be holding up over 100,000 houses in the planning pipeline across England.

However, many feel the measures are insufficient, because they do not tackle the problems that developers are facing right now. Some experts also question the assumptions that house builders are ‘land banking’ and claim that giving councils new powers to block planning for builders who have failed to deliver on the same land will just create more barriers rather than speed up the delivery of new homes.

A spokesperson for the Home Builders Federation commented: 

“Repeated independent investigations have concluded that house builders do not land bank. Having invested in land and spent often hundreds of thousands of pounds securing planning permission, builders are always keen to get on site as soon as possible and get a return on this investment but there are many influences over how quickly a site can be built out.

“In an increasingly challenging operating environment, made worse by the implications of the disastrous mini budget, ministers should be working with industry and providing it with confidence to invest in sites, not erecting more barriers.”

What do you think?

Will these measures help to regenerate left-behind communities? Will they help to create neighbourhoods where people thrive? Will they speed up or slow down the delivery of new homes? We’d love to hear what you think so share your views on the BIDEN principles and other proposals outlined above.  Comment over on our Facebook or LinkedIn pages.


Feature image: stockphotomania/Shutterstock.com