The Healthy Homes campaign has reached a pivotal moment in parliament. On the 27th March, peers from across the political spectrum in the House of Lords, including Lord Blunkett, Lord Young of Cookham, Baroness Hayman of Ullock, Lord Bishop of Derby, the Earl of Lytton, amongst others, gave their wholehearted endorsement of the Healthy Homes amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB), as put down by Lord Nigel Crisp, former Chief Executive of the English NHS and Cross-bench Peer.
Lord Crisp’s amendments seek to enshrine 11 legally-binding ‘Healthy Homes Principles’ in law. A further amendment on affordable housing has been proposed by Baroness Taylor of Stevenage, where assessment of affordable housing need should be based on average and below-average income levels, rather than on market prices.
In an impressive two-and-a-half-hour-long debate, peers pointed to the huge social cost of poor quality homes and neighbourhoods. They noted that new homes can be of such poor quality they will need to be retrofitted almost straight away. A recent report from the Building Research Establishment shows that the combined annual cost to the NHS of ‘category 1 hazards’ in owner-occupied, private-rented and social housing totals over £1 billion every year. Another report from Arup found that over half (55%) of the UK’s housing stock is prone to dangerous over-heating in the summer, leading to an estimated 791 excess deaths per year in England and Wales. Excess cold, linked to poor insulation and fuel poverty, increases arthritis, undermines sleep quality, as well as exacerbates cardiac and respiratory conditions, including those with asthma and other allergies. Overheating is linked to respiratory and cardiac problems, sleep loss and hypertension. Peers called for a simplified, fairer and stronger regulatory landscape to avoid exacerbating long-term chronic illnesses in the population, to promote resilience to climate change, and to create a level playing field for developers in terms of requirements.
Lord Crisp introduced the amendments by pointing to the lack of provisions to promote health and wellbeing in planning legislation and guidance. He noted:
“Even in the key paragraph 20 of the National Planning Policy Framework, where the Government set down requirements on strategic policies in local plans, there is no mention of promoting health and well-being but simply a reference to the provision of healthcare facilities. This seems to be a very old-fashioned view of health which equates health with healthcare….
Our homes and neighbourhoods deeply influence our health, for good and for bad, and this all influences our life chances. If we want to level up and create the circumstances in which people can flourish, health and well-being must have central roles in our planning system.”
Baroness Hayman highlighted the benefit of getting buildings right from the outset otherwise we face creating a legacy of health and building costs in the future:
“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.”
The Earl of Lytton agreed, noting:
“We need neighbourhoods and layouts that work and we need homes that are cherished; if they are cherished, they are looked after and then they last longer. If they are not, it almost does not matter how well they are constructed; deterioration and dereliction will set in, which is an attrition of the built environment.”
In the government response to the amendments, Earl Howe recognised that healthy homes and neighbourhoods are important, stating that existing policy was ‘very clear on sustainable development’. He noted that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was a material consideration in shaping planning decisions. In reply, Lord Crisp, pointed to the big difference between guidance and what is required by statute in terms of affecting what developers deliver in practice, “we need to build homes that are fit for purpose”. He further emphasised,
“Planning is often seen as a negative, but all noble Lords described it as something that could enable the creation of the flourishing individuals, society and communities that we all want.”
Next stage: Mobilising parliament
We want to thank all the Healthy Homes coalition members and wider supporters for all your help to date in helping to raise awareness about the campaign.
This next stage is critical in terms of engaging peers to vote for the amendments in the House of Lords. And, if successful, we need to mobilise MPs from across the parties to support the amendments when they go back to the House of Commons for ‘Ping Pong’.
Your continued support at these next stages is vital, engaging those peers and MPs you work with to commit to voting in favour of Lord Crisp’s Healthy Homes amendments and to support Baroness Taylor of Stevenage’s affordable housing amendments to the LURB (see links below).
Key LURB dates
“Parliament doesn’t work in a straight line”. The committee stage in the Lords has already been extended by several weeks. As such, the following dates for the LURB process are likely to move, and are only an approximation of when the next stages are likely to take place:
- Lords report stage: The report stage is running from 11th July to early September,
- Lords third reading and vote: The report stage will be followed by a third reading which is just a brief vote.
- Ping pong: There’s no set time period between third reading and vote in the House of Lords and the beginning of ping pong with the House of Commons but this is likely to take place in September, shortly after the summer recess.
- The Healthy Homes Campaign
- These are homes photobook
- The Healthy Homes Principles, and health evidence underpinning them
- Our briefing paper for peers on the amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB)
Dr Rosalie Callway: Rosalie.Callway@tcpa.org.uk
Sally Roscoe: Sally.Roscoe@tcpa.org.uk