34.Baroness Young of Old Scone proposed a special inquiry select committee to consider the pressures on land use and how the related decision-making processes might be improved.
35.Land is a highly valuable asset and the way it is used has implications for every citizen and most, if not all, sectors of the UK’s economy. Pressures on land use are increasing—as the Government attempts to tackle the housing crisis, level up on infrastructure and build a carbon neutral future, more and more land is needed to accommodate new projects. At the same time, factors like demographic change, economic growth, societal preferences and climate change are expected to continue to shift the demands on land.
36.Responses to these pressures and approaches to land use vary across the UK. Scotland has in place a framework to establish how land uses should be prioritised and encourage pieces of land to be used for multiple purposes, and steps towards similar systems are being taken in Wales and Northern Ireland. England, on the other hand, does not have a national plan or framework. Rather, district councils are largely responsible for issuing planning permission while government departments have a role in setting strategic aims. One criticism of this approach is that national, local and regional decisions are not joined-up, and as a result land is not used as effectively as it could be.
37.Given the importance of the subject of land use, and its impact on a wide range of areas, it is unsurprising that several aspects have already been the subject of a number of committee inquiries. In the House of Lords, the special inquiry committee on the Rural Economy recommended in 2019 that the Government “should revisit the merits of a national spatial plan to ensure that planning policy operates in a framework where land use priorities are properly considered above the local level”. The Built Environment Select Committee’s remit is to consider housing, planning, transport, and infrastructure. That Committee is currently concluding an inquiry into the Housing Demand. This inquiry has examined current demand for housing and how it is changing, and what the barriers to meeting that demand are. This includes examining the current planning system and the degree to which there is a lack of a joined-up national approach. The Committee is expected to publish its report in the next few weeks.
38.The Built Environment Committee’s current inquiry focuses on housing specifically, and its investigation of the planning system overlaps substantially with several areas of land use, including land value capture and brownfield development. In recommending a special inquiry into land use in England we consider it important that overlap with the remit of the work of the Built Environment Committee is avoided. The Built Environment Committee will begin a new inquiry in January. Whilst it would, as usual, be for the new special inquiry committee to agree its detailed call for evidence following its establishment, this should be done following consultation with the Chair of the Built Environment Committee, currently Baroness Neville-Rolfe.
39.A special inquiry committee could examine the current and developing pressures on land use excluding the built environment, as well as considering the systems presently in place and under development to deal with these pressures. It might then consider how those systems could be improved, benefiting from the experience of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
40.A committee on this topic might consider the following:
38 Rural Economy Committee, (Report of Session 2017–2019, HL Paper 330), p 15