Debates between Lord Bishop of Derby and Baroness Hayman during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 27th Mar 2023

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Debate between Lord Bishop of Derby and Baroness Hayman
Lord Bishop of Derby Portrait The Lord Bishop of Derby
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My Lords, I am glad that today we have the opportunity to consider the health and well-being dimensions of planning. It is my view that development planning cannot be truly successful if it does not also enhance health and well-being. I speak first in favour of Amendment 188 and Amendments 394 to 399 from the noble Lord, Lord Crisp. The right reverend Prelates the Lord Bishop of London, the Lord Bishop of Chelmsford, the Lord Bishop of Manchester and the Lord Bishop of Carlisle, who have previously spoken on these issues, regret they cannot be in their place today. However, I have no doubt they would want to give their support to these amendments were they in the Chamber.

I am sure noble Lords will recall stories of what can happen when living conditions deteriorate. Awaab Ishak’s death in December 2020 from a respiratory condition caused by “extensive mould” was an incredibly tragic story, as was that of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah’s death, partly caused by toxic air near where she lived. It is welcome that the Government are working to deliver Awaab’s Law through the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill and that Ella’s Law, the Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill, continues its journey through Parliament in the other place.

Today, we have the opportunity to put health and well-being at the heart of regulating our built environment: an essential step to preventing such awful outcomes and instead facilitating the flourishing of individuals and communities. The amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, set out the healthy homes principles for new housing stock. Those 11 principles range from safety

“in relation to the risk of fire”

to

“year-round thermal comfort”

and more. Surely these are planning standards that we all can agree are good to uphold.

Not only that but, as we have heard, these principles would significantly benefit the public purse. Research by the Building Research Establishment found that 2.6 million homes in England—roughly 11% of them—were of poor quality and hazardous to their occupants. As a result, those poor-quality homes cost the NHS, as we have heard, up to £1.4 billion every year. My view echoes that of the Archbishops’ housing commission that

“good housing should be sustainable, safe, stable, sociable and satisfying”.

Such housing would significantly reduce the strain placed on the NHS. I believe these amendments to be a valuable addition to this Bill.

The Government have acknowledged that housing and health are key to the levelling-up agenda. However, the Bill as it stands contains no clear provisions that achieve that objective. I echo the challenge to the assertion made by the Minister’s all-Peers letter of 27 January that the healthy homes provisions are being dealt with by existing laws or alternative policy. While the NPPF and national technical housing standards cover some elements of issues addressed by these principles, these are not mandatory legal duties for local decision makers, and nor is there an overall statutory duty on the Secretary of State to uphold the healthy homes principles. Therefore, I hope the Government will accept these amendments.

Amendment 241, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Young, would also be an invaluable addition to the Bill. Its introduction of a new statutory duty to reduce health inequalities and improve well-being would also help the Government to address poor health, described in their own levelling up White Paper, as we have heard, as

“One of the gravest inequalities faced by our most disadvantaged communities”.


By requiring local authorities to include policies that meet this objective in their local development plans, his amendment will help to transform our built environments into spaces that help create good health and well-being, and, as such, reduce health inequalities.

As pointed out by the Better Planning Coalition, this proposed new clause is a necessary addition given that pre-existing documents and provisions have not been sufficient to stop the growing health inequalities in recent years. I refer to research by Professor Sir Michael Marmot of the Institute of Health Equity, which found that the health gap between wealthy and deprived areas grew between 2010 and 2020. I therefore hope that the Minister will consider this amendment.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interest as co-chair of Peers for the Planet and the fact that I have a family member currently working in the energy efficiency space. I added my name to Amendment 484, which was so comprehensively explained by the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, and supported by the noble Lord, Lord Best. It concerns an important and underrecognised area in terms of climate change and the reduction of emissions. I hope that the Minister will take it very seriously.

I have tabled Amendment 504GF in this group, which deals with the urgent need to make progress in energy efficiency through a warmer homes and businesses action plan. The contributions already made today show clearly the synergy between the amendments on healthy homes and my amendment on energy efficiency. The health of those who live in the UK’s housing stock which is damp, cold or leaky, and worse than the housing stock in most of Europe, is impacted day in and day out by the conditions in which they live. We should all be concerned about this, but it is not only the health of those of our fellow citizens that would be addressed by taking action on energy efficiency, such as insulation or new forms of heating.

Investing in insulation and decarbonisation has many other benefits for individuals and society. It reduces costs not only for bill payers but for the taxpayer, who is currently spending vast sums subsidising energy bills through the energy price guarantee. It helps to reduce greenhouse gases and improve our air quality. It contributes to our net-zero target and, in an increasingly unstable world, electrifying the heat in our homes and making them energy efficient has become an issue of national security as well. Yet we appear as a nation to be in a position of stasis on energy efficiency.

Short-term scheme after short-term scheme underdelivers, damaging confidence that the wider task can be achieved. Scandalously, hundreds of thousands of homes are being built every year which will require future retrofitting because we did not implement the standards early enough. We have our most vulnerable citizens living in fuel poverty in cold and leaky homes. We have an industry largely waiting for confirmation from the Government before they get on with what will be a huge job of scaling up the market and developing the skills we need. Insulating, retrofitting and installing low-carbon technology all play a significant role, but so too do the planning system, funding and government leadership. We need to make the progress that will bring with it good jobs, economic security and benefits in reducing our carbon emissions.