The Queen's Speech 2021: what did it say?

Sweeping changes to the property industry were announced in the Queen’s Speech. These include a Planning Bill modernising the planning system to allow more homes to be built, increased help for first time buyers, and the Renters Reform Bill to enhance the rights of those who rent. Boris Johnson’s promise to ban the practice of excessive ground rent increases by freeholders was also confirmed by Her Majesty, and a Building Safety Bill will be made law to ensure that the tragedies of the past, such as Grenfell Tower, can never happen again. The key changes to property industry policy include:

Planning Bill

This bill, which is expected to be brought before parliament in the autumn, will introduce long awaited changes to England’s planning system. These changes were outlined in last summer’s planning white paper in which Boris Johnson announced that he wanted to “level the foundations” of planning by creating an entirely new system. The key elements of the bill will be:

  • Scrapping Section 106 agreements and replacing them with “a new more predictable and more transparent infrastructure levy”
  • Changing local plans so they will provide more certainty over the “type, scale and design” of development permitted and introducing a zonal approach to planning, categorizing land into areas for “growth”, “protection” and “renewal”
  • This aims to significantly speed up planning, however, this will be challenging with greater involvement of communities, increased environmental protection and design scrutiny also proposed.

Leasehold Reform Bill

The stated purpose of the Bill, which is currently going through the House of Lords, is to tackle the inconsistency and ambiguity of ground rents, by requiring that ground rents in residential long leases have no financial demand, meaning nothing more than a ‘peppercorn rent’.

The Bill will mean leaseholders of new, long residential leases cannot be charged a financial ground rent and the apparent rationale is to make leasehold a more transparent and fairer system for homeowners. The bill will be enforced by a fine of up to £5,000 for freeholders that charge rent in contravention of the Bill.

Building Safety Bill

The Bill, which will implement recommendations from the Hackitt Review, is expected to categorise a further 13,000 buildings as higher risk and will legislate for the introduction of the new Building Safety Regulator.

Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill

This bill will extend 5G mobile coverage across the country and introduce new safety standards for digital devices. Most of the policies in this bill relate to cutting more red tape and supporting the deployment of new fixed and mobile (4G and 5G) networks via the Government’s £5bn Project Gigabit programme and the £1bn Shared Rural Network (SRN) industry scheme.

John Gravett, head of real estate management at Cluttons comments: "We are encouraged to see the continued focus and support on digital infrastructure to ensure that the country benefits from faster and more reliable network coverage. As we recover from the pandemic such digital access will be an enabler for business growth and the adoption of more flexible working patterns."