Infrastructure Bill fails to include new clauses on placemaking, accessibility and Garden Cities

Following the Public Bill Committee meeting to discuss the Infrastructure Bill in the House of Commons on 15 January, the Town & Country Planning Association (TCPA) has expressed disappointment over the Government’s failure to create a duty to ensure accessibility is at the front of decision makers’ minds when preparing local plans in England.

The Public Bill Committee meeting on the Infrastructure Bill brought forward a proposed amendment which was tabled by Roberta Blackman Woods MP, Shadow planning minister, and suggested inserting a clause stating that local development plans must include policies designed to secure inclusive design and accessibility for the maximum number of people.

Following a short debate, the Committee voted against including the amendment by nine votes to six. Communities minister Stephen Williams questioned the benefit of such a move, arguing that it could create conflict with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

A week earlier, the Public Bill Committee meeting on the Infrastructure Bill brought forward another proposed amendment tabled by Roberta Blackman Woods. This amendment suggested updating existing New Towns legislation to ensure it is fit for purpose in the 21st century and lays the foundation for the delivery of high quality new communities through strong place making. Following a debate, which raised a number of points about proposed new Garden Cities, including the need to include sufficient affordable housing in the new communities, the amendment was later withdrawn, and the Government urged to reconsider its reluctance to update the legislation.

TCPA chief executive Kate Henderson said: 'While we are in the position of having cross party political support for a new generation of Garden Cities, urgent action is needed to ensure that the correct measures and framework are in place in order to deliver the Garden Cities of the future.

'The Infrastructure Bill provides a mechanism to lay down this framework and to update the New Towns Act, however by failing to acknowledge this, the Government has missed a vital opportunity to put place-making back into the heart of planning as we strive to deliver much needed homes for the nation.'

TCPA Head of Policy Dr Hugh Ellis said: 'Naturally we are disappointed that the Government has failed to use this chance to ensure that accessibility is at the heart of place-making. The amendment which received overwhelming support from a number of organisations³, had the potential to have a transformational impact on the lives of the elderly and disabled people, ensuring that the homes that they live in are fit for purpose from the outset.

“There is a wide consensus, and clear evidence to show that we are failing to ready ourselves for the health, housing and social care needs of our population. The falling of the amendment represents a missed opportunity, however we must do all in our power to ensure that the whole built environment is accessible, inclusive and can be used and enjoyed by everyone. We will continue to work closely with Habinteg to push the case for creating housing that is easily adaptable, exchangeable, value for money over a long period and well suited to the needs of a broad range of the populations.”

The proposed amendment stems from the TCPA’s publication New Towns Act 2015 and involves inserting a clause embedding positive objectives for New Towns Development Corporations. The TCPA is currently undertaking a research project exploring the lessons to be learned from the New Towns programme which between 1946 and 1970 created 32 new towns, which today provide homes for over 2.7m people (4.5% of the UK’s households).

Kate Henderson added: 'New Garden Cities should combine the very high social and environmental standards of Gardens Cities with the highly effective delivery mechanisms of the post-war New Towns. Our research has demonstrated how the legislation, and New Town Development Corporations can be modernised incorporating the best of both approaches and learning the lessons of what has worked in the past and what has not.'