Buckingham MP working on bill that ‘gives Yellow Pages a run for its money’

MP for Buckingham Greg Smith has got his work cut out for the foreseeable future, as he explains in his regular column.

By Reporter
Thursday, 30th June 2022, 3:05 pm

One of the most significant pieces of legislation passing through the House of Commons right now is the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.

A few weeks ago I spoke in the Second Reading debate and, having made a few comments on areas where I felt the bill could be improved to put in greater protections for our countryside against development, it was with some surprise I got a tap on the shoulder from the whips telling me I would be sitting on the Bill Committee.

A Bill Committee is where a group of MPs, representative of the make-up of the Commons, go through the bill line by line to scrutinise it and amend it.

MP for Buckingham, Greg Smith

On a very practical level, given this bill gives the Yellow Pages a run for its money on thickness, it will now dominate my time through to the end of September, requiring major diary surgery to pre-existing commitments, especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

But on a positive note, it is a wonderful opportunity for me, as a rural MP, to make the case for greater protections for open countryside and agricultural land, as well as sharpening rules on making planning enforcement against illegal development easier and strengthening communities’ hands when it comes to the way things like flood risk are assessed as part of planning.

By making some important amendments, such as one already tabled in my name to make the consideration of food production a legal requirement by government and planning authorities when considering a planning application for agricultural land (be that housing or things like solar farms), I hope to protect our precious far land going forward.

Of course, there is already much to celebrate in the bill, including the introduction of compulsory design codes to ensure development reflects community preferences.

It will also introduce a new Infrastructure Levy to fund affordable housing, schools, GP surgeries and roads that new development creates the need for, and all importantly, a presumption for a ‘brownfield first’ approach.

It is going to be a long slog, but worth it to get this important bill right.