The coalition government pledges to radically reform the planning system to give neighbourhoods far more ability to determine the shape of the places in which their inhabitants live, based on the principles set out in the Conservative Party publication Open Source Planning, and is now fully implemented as the Localism Act.
In order for many of the ideas detailed in Open Source Planning to be implemented, the government started with a radical overhaul of many of the established practices currently used in the planning system. This began with the abolition of regional spatial strategies and RDAs, the proposed introduction of incentives and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to name but a few, and is continued in many of the measures in the Localism Act.
The government’s concept of local planning is rooted in civic engagement and collaborative democracy as the means of reconciling economic development with quality of life. Local communities are to play a much larger part in development in their area, changing the system from ‘top-down’ to ‘bottom-up’. This fundamental change will affect all parts of the planning system.
The Localism Bill was published at the end of 2010. It gave further detail of the proposals for neighbourhood planning, the duty to cooperate and the changes to CIL. We've worked with government to make many of the measures workable, and to ensure businesses have a voice. The Bill gained Royal Assent at the end of 2011, is now in place as the Localism Act.
It is important to be clear what localism means. For us, localism is not simply about devolving powers to the lowest possible level but rather ensuring that powers are exercised at the most appropriate level. Given the centralisation that has taken place over recent years, we recognise that this is likely to involve a shift of control from both central government and the (former) regions to local authorities and the communities in their areas.
Localism presents a major opportunity to reinvigorate local government. For many years, local authorities have been sidelined in key areas of decision making. They need to be put back in the driving seat and trusted to act in a prudent and responsible way.
This means that they should be at the core of the localism agenda. In order to avoid a hiatus in the development sector – stopping job creation and the much needed building of homes – it’s imperative that the changes are introduced in a sensitive and effective way. In addition to local authorities playing a major part, businesses must be given the opportunity to help in place shaping hand in hand with residents in an area. All those who use an area - whether as residents, employees or employers – should be involved in the new community initiatives.
We're delighted that others, including Ministers agreed with us, and that now neighbourhood planning is accessible to businesses too.
We are engaged with the coalition government at all levels to ensure that we can discuss changes fully, both with other organisations and independently. We have responded to the select committee inquiries on the abolition of regional spatial strategies, localism and local enterprise partnerships, and will continue to share our views in these areas. We continue to work closely with officials on many aspects of the Act, including neighbourhood planning, the duty to co-operate and CIL.
As a result of many of our conversations with Ministers, officials and other stakeholders, we believe it's a much more 'pro growth' measure and will continue to work to make sure the full potential of localism is realised through the implementation of other measures to empower local communities such as TIF and local rate retention. We are continuing to work with officials on the guidance, regulations and implementation of the new provisions in the Act.