When asked about the government’s desire to amend references to climate change in the NPPF, Eddie Hughes, junior minister for the newly re-named Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), told the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, that it could expect to see those changes.
He also said that detail on the upcoming Planning Bill is currently in “a state of flux”, but that a full review of the National Planning Policy Framework is something that “would naturally go side by side” with the publication of the government response to the Planning for the Future white paper consultation.
This comes as the department’s previous secretary of state Robert Jenrick was sacked last week following a cabinet reshuffle, to be replaced by Michael Gove.
According to reports, Gove is expected to rein in and review his predecessor’s plans for overhauling the planning system.
Earlier in the session, Hughes and Lord Callahan, the minister representing the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), refused to be drawn on whether or not ring-fenced core funding would be made available to local councils in order to achieve net zero.
“Lots of different people would like long-term and consistent funding”, said Hughes, but he was unable to confirm that he had spoken to the Treasury about introducing any ring-fenced core spending in the next spending review.
While it was put to the ministers by the panel that net zero “is not going to happen without funding specifically for this issue”, the ministers insisted that the bidding process, by which councils can put forward bids for grant money for specific projects, was working.
Although the ministers did not shift position on the question of council funding, Lord Callahan did cede ground later in discussion on the subject of the government’s £1.5bn Green Homes Grant scheme, saying that it “not been one of our finest success stories”.
“Clearly it didn’t fulfill the high expectations we had of it”, he said of the green scheme to upgrade England’s homes with better insulation and low carbon heating, which was axed earlier this year after just six months.
Callahan said that for any future scheme rolled out, which may come out of the next spending review, he would want there to be more time built in to plan it properly and for a pilot phase to be implemented.
While there were some light-hearted jibes made about the department’s latest rebranding, a serious question was posed to the ministers about what it meant that the ‘local government’ part of the department’s previous name had been dropped. They did not directly respond.