The King’s Speech 2023: Three Headlines for the Built Environment

What was in the King's Speech for the built environment, check our overview below.

David Barnes

Policy & Public Affairs Manager

Last updated: 7th November 2023

On 7 November 2023, King Charles delivered his first speech as Monarch, setting out the Government’s legislative programme for the forthcoming parliamentary session.

The State Opening marks the beginning of the parliamentary session. Its main purpose is for the Monarch to formally open Parliament and, in the King’s Speech, outline the Government’s proposed policies and legislation for the coming parliamentary session.

Twenty-one bills made it into the final legislative programme before the next UK general election - which can be held no later than 28 January 2025. Around a third have been carried out from the previous session, these include the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill and the Renters (Reform) Bill.

The Renters (Reform) Bill will reform tenancies in the private rented sector, requiring all private landlords who rent out property in England to join a government approved redress scheme, regardless of whether they use an agent. It will also reform the grounds for ending a tenancy, including the eventual end to section 21 “no-fault” evictions.

In a programme that appears fairly limited for the construction industry and wider built environment, we have focused on three specific new bills and discussion points that could have an impact on the sector.

The Leasehold and Freehold Bill

The only new bill to be introduced relating to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC). The briefing note attached to the King’s Speech advises that:

“The Bill will make the long-term and necessary changes to improve home ownership for millions of leaseholders in England and Wales, by making it cheaper and easier for more leaseholders to extend their lease, buy their freehold, and take over management of their building. These reforms build on the success of the Leasehold Reform (Ground Rents) Act 2022, which put an end to ground rents for new, qualifying long residential leasehold properties in England and Wales as part of the most significant changes to property law in a generation.”

The Secretary of State for Levelling Up has long made clear his desire to reform the leasehold system in England. During Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Questions in February 2023, Michael Gove MP said, "We need to end this feudal form of tenure and ensure individuals have the right to enjoy their own property fully”. Since then, it appears the Government has watered down its plans to reform leasehold. Now, it is expected that the Bill will reform the process of extending leases and will give leaseholders more power to manage their buildings and dispute service charges.

Skills & Further Education

The Government pledged to introduce the proposed Advanced British Standard (ABS) and increase apprenticeships in the King’s speech. ABS would replace A Levels and T Levels, with £600 million funding to support the project. The qualification reforms would see students’ study five subjects, including English and Maths to 18 and allow them to take a mix of academic and technical subjects.

It is expected that a consultation on the ABS will be released this month (November), with a proposed white paper in 2024.

There is, however, a great deal of uncertainty with the progression of the ABS, given the major reforms would be dependent on Conservatives winning the next general election. The Government also estimate that if implemented, would take at least 10 years to deliver in full.

No Nutrient Neutrality Bill

There was no mention of new legislation to change existing nutrient pollution laws which demand developers in certain areas do not pollute waterways with nutrients like phosphates.

It had been anticipated that the Government would scrap nutrient neutrality rules, however it appears the law will remain in place.