The Government has passed the Localism Act. The Act covers a number of topics; the information below refers to the aspects of the Act to do with spatial planning.
Localism Act 2011
The Localism Act was passed on November 15 2011.
The full document is available here.
A plain English guide to Decentralisation and the Localism Act
has been published by the Department of Communities and Local Government. It is available here.
According to the summary of the Act on www.parliament.uk
The planning and regeneration provisions will
- abolish RSS Regional Spatial Strategies
- abolish the IPC Infrastructure Planning Commission and return to
a position where the Secretary of State takes the final decision on major
infrastructure proposals of national importance
- amend the Community Infrastructure Levy, which allows
councils to charge developers to pay for infrastructure. Some of the revenue
will be available for the local community
- provide for neighbourhood plans, which would be approved if
they received 50% of the votes cast in a referendum
- provide for neighbourhood development orders to allow
communities to approve development without requiring normal planning consent
- give new housing and regeneration powers to the Greater
London Authority, while abolishing the London Development Agency
- include a Community Right to Build provision.
DCLG paper dated October 2011.
Background to the Localism Bill
The Queen's Speech announcement stated that
The purpose of the Bill is to:
The Bill would devolve greater powers to councils and neighbourhoods and give local communities control over housing and planning decisions.
The main benefits of the Bill would be:
- Empowering local people.
- Freeing local government from central and regional control.
- Giving local communities a real share in local growth.
- A more efficient and more local planning system.
To see the Queen's speech setting out the elements of the Bill in full go to http://www.number10.gov.uk/queens-speech/2010/05/queens-speech-decentralisation-and-localism-bill-50673
'Open Source Planning' Green Paper Policy Green Paper no 14
which sets out the creation of an Open Source planning system, means that local people in each neighbourhood – a term used to include villages, towns, estates, wards or other relevant local areas – will be able to specify what kind of development and use of land, they want to see in their area.
The Coalition Our Programme for the Future is available at http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/media/409088/pfg_coalition.pdf
Guidance to the Bill
Click here to see the Department of Communities and Local Government Plain English Guide to the Localism Bill.
The proposals cover the following:
New freedoms and flexibility for local Government
The Localism Bill includes a “general power of competence.” It will give local authorities the legal capacity to do anything that an individual can do that is not specifically banned by other laws: they will not, for example, be able to impose new taxes, as other laws make clear they cannot.
- General power of competence
In the Localism Bill, the Government will abolish the Standards Board regime. Instead, it will become a criminal offence for councillors to deliberately withhold or misrepresent a personal interest.
- Abolition of the Standards Board
The Localism Bill will make it clear that it is proper for councillors to play an active part in local discussions, and that they should not be liable to legal challenge as a result.
- Clarifying the rules on predetermination
The Localism Bill will give more cities the opportunity to decide whether they want a mayor.
The Localism Bill will pass greater powers over housing and regeneration to local democratically elected representatives in London.
New rights and powers for Communities
The Localism Bill will give these groups the right to express an interest in taking over the running of a local service. The local authority must consider and respond to this challenge.
- Community right to challenge
Proposals in the Localism Bill will require local authorities to maintain a list of assets of community value. Communities will have the opportunity to nominate for possible inclusion the assets that are most important to them.
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 when it comes on the open market.
The Localism Bill will give local people the right to suggest votes on any local issue that they think is important.
The Secretary of State and the House of Commons will agree on a “ceiling” for Council Tax rises. If a local authority proposes to raise taxes faster than this rate, local people will have the right to approve or to veto the rise in a referendum.
- Right to veto excessive Council Tax rises
Reform to make the planning system clearer, more democratic and more effective
- Abolition of regional strategies
- Neighbourhood planning
Neighbourhood planning will allow people to come together through a local parish council or neighbourhood forum and say where they think new houses, businesses and shops should go – and what they should look like.
As part of neighbourhood planning, the Bill will give groups of local people the ability to bring forward small developments. These might include new homes, businesses and shops.
To further strengthen the role of local communities in planning, the Bill will introduce a new requirement for developers to consult local communities before submitting planning applications for very large developments.
- Requirement to consult communities before submitting very large planning applications
The Localism Bill will strengthen planning authorities’ powers to tackle abuses of the planning system, such as making deliberately misleading planning applications.
- Strengthening enforcement rules
The Localism 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. 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 goes directly to the neighbourhoods where development takes place.
- Reforming the community infrastructure levy
This will help ensure that the people who say “yes” to new development feel the benefit of that decision.
The Localism 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 plans’ progress to central government, authorities focus on reporting progress to local communities.
- Reform the way local plans are made
Duty to cooperate
The duty will require local authorities and other public bodies to work together on planning issues.
The Localism Bill will abolish the Infrastructure Planning Commission and restore its responsibility for taking decisions to Government Ministers.
- Nationally significant infrastructure projects
Reform to ensure that decisions about housing are taken locally
- Social housing tenure reform
- Social housing allocations reform
- Reform of homelessness legislation
- Reform of council housing finance
- National Homeswap Scheme
- Reform of social housing regulation