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Posted by: Rod Ellison on 06/07/2011

The committee stage of the Localism Bill continued for a fifth day in the House of Lords today. The Bill contains provisions for local government and community empowerment, planning, housing and the governance of London. Key elements of the Bill related to planning include:

Community Right to Challenge: the Bill will give the general public, parish councils and Local Authorities employees the right to express an interest in taking over the running of a service. The Local Authorities must consider and respond to this challenge; and where it accepts it, run a procurement exercise for the service in which the challenging organisation can bid.

Community Right to Buy: proposals in the Bill will require Local Authorities to maintain a list of assets of community value whilst communities will have the opportunity to nominate assets for possible inclusion. When listed assets come up for sale or change of ownership, community groups will have time to develop a bid and raise the money to buy the asset.

Neighbourhood Planning: will allow communities to come together through a local parish council or forum (20 plus members required) and say where they think new houses, businesses and shops should go and specify design parameters. Local communities would also be able to grant full or outline planning permission in areas (effectively PD rights), making it easier and quicker for development to go ahead.

Neighbourhood Development Plans (NDPs): if approved by a majority, then Local Authorities adopt. Local Authorities to provide technical advice and support to NDPs. The Government will also fund sources of help and advice for communities. NDPs will largely (it is thought) follow the same processes as for development plan documents and SPGs. Examples of current plans of a similar ilk include village appraisals, village design statements, Parish plans, community-led planning / Community Action Plans & Town Action Planning and Market Town Healthcheck.

A general principle that can be applied to these documents is that they can be taken into account in deciding planning applications, as their provisions carry some weight as material considerations.

Community Right to Build: a community organisation (formed by members of the local community) will be able to bring forward development proposals which, provided they meet minimum criteria and can demonstrate local support, without a planning application (Implemented by Community Right to Build Orders (CRBO)). Requirement to consult communities before submitting very large planning applications

Local Consultation: to formalize the role of local communities in planning (and what was already accepted practice on large applications), the Bill will introduce a new requirement for developers to consult local communities before submitting planning applications for large developments.

General Power of Competence: the Localism Bill includes a ‘general power of competence’, giving Local Authorities the legal capacity to do anything that an individual can do that is not specifically prohibited; they will not, for example, be able to impose new taxes, as an individual has no power to tax. The new, general power will give councils more freedom to work together with other authorities (see Duty to Cooperate). The general power of competence does not remove any duties from Local Authorities.

Duty to Cooperate: local authorities and other public bodies to work together on planning issues of a trans-boundary nature.

Clarifying the Rules on Predetermination: in parallel with the abolition of the Standards Board, the Government intends to use the Bill to clarify the rules on ‘predetermination’. The Localism Bill will make it clear that it is proper for Councellors to play an active part in local discussions, and that they should not be liable to legal challenge as a result.

Community Infrastructure Levy: the Bill proposes changes to the levy to make it more flexible. It will allow the money raised to be spent on maintaining infrastructure, as well as building new infrastructure. The amendment, tabled by Lord Greaves and Lord Tope, says that the purpose of CIL is to ensure that "owners and developers of land make a financial contribution to support communities in the area in which their development is situated, including the provision of infrastructure and the building, improvement and renovation of housing". It will give local authorities greater freedom in setting the rate that developers should pay in different areas. And crucially, the Bill will give the Government the power to require that some of the money raised from the levy go directly to the neighbourhoods where development takes place. Payments must be relevant to the planning application being considered otherwise they cannot be taken into account....... although the direction of travel seems to be that financial matters will be a material consideration at planning.

Reform the way local plans are made: the Bill will limit the discretion of planning inspectors to insert their own wording into local plans. It will also ensure that rather than focusing on reporting progress in making plans to central government, local authorities  focus on reporting progress to local communities.

New Homes Bonus: although not actual part of the bill the “New Homes Bonus” is a Government scheme which is aimed at encouraging local authorities to grant planning permissions for the building of new houses, in return for additional revenue. Effectively replaces the Housing and Planning Delivery Grant (HPDG). Government will match the additional council tax raised for each new house built for each of the six years.

Nationally significant infrastructure projects: not considered within this blog.

So how does this help communities build new homes and enable renewable energy? - to find out please get in touch with our environmental planning team.

Categories: Ecological Contracting
Tags: communities | Localism Bill | new homes bonus
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