As Harold Wilson said, a week is a long time in politics…but this week has be one of the most momentous in recent times in British politics.
Monday saw the Queen’s Speech with a total of 26 bills including a strategy for national infrastructure, regional policy and housing standards incorporating the all 53 of Dame Hackitt’s recommendations following the Grenfell tragedy. The received wisdom is that the Queen’s Speech is less programme of legislative action but more a Conservative Party Manifesto for an imminent – though for Boris Johnson not imminent enough – General Election.
Then mid-week all eyes firstly turned to 10 Downing Street as a proposed Brexit exit agreement was finally unveiled, then to Brussels when, after some nerve jangling moments, it was finally accepted by the EU…..Only to be rejected by the DUP. So all eyes are now focusing on Westminster, when Parliament sits on Saturday for the first time since the Falklands War in 1982. The big question is, will Boris Johnson, leading a government without a majority, get his much awaited exit agreement through Parliament or will this be yet another dead end on the road to Brexit? Watch this space…
In the meantime, here our are key takeaways from the Queen’s Speech which contained notable points for the built environment on infrastructure, local devolution and built safety standards legislation:
The National Infrastructure Strategy
Due to be published later in the autumn, the strategy will set out plans to deliver a step change in infrastructure investment across the whole of the UK.
- Will set out the Government’s long-term ambitions across all areas of economic infrastructure including transport, local growth, decarbonisation, digital infrastructure, infrastructure finance and delivery.
- As with above point on devolution, this will aim to close the productivity gap between London and the rest of the country, allowing these areas to benefit from infrastructure.
- The strategy will set out the Government’s formal response to the National Infrastructure Commission’s 2018 National Infrastructure Assessment, which made a number of recommendations across all sectors of economic infrastructure (transport, energy, digital, waste, water and flood management
A White Paper will provide further information on the Government’s offer for enhanced devolution across England, levelling up the powers between Mayoral Combined Authorities and increasing the number of mayors and doing more devolution deals.
- The government is seeking to boost investment in regions to increase productivity across the country, and is proposing to deliver more devolution to, and increase the number of, directly elected Mayors (with a remit including planning and transport policy).
- A retained commitment to the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine strategies.
Whilst the following bill relates specifically to the built environment sector, focusing on safety standards and regulation within the industry:
Building safety standards legislation
To put in place new and modernised regulatory regimes for building safety and construction products, ensuring residents have a stronger voice in the system.
- A new system to oversee the whole built environment, with local enforcement agencies and national regulators working together to ensure that the safety of all buildings is improved.
- Changes following Grenfell Tower fire, amending the regulatory framework for high-rise residential blocks – and industry culture to ensure accountability.
- Increasing voices of residents in the system, increasing transparency in safety standards.
- Developers of new build homes will be required belong to a New Homes Ombudsman.
It is important to caveat the above, in that the deliverability of the proposals is very much dependent on whether the current Brexit impasse can be broken in parliament.
The full detail of the government’s agenda can be read here.