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The AJ's bloggers track the latest developments in the plan to hand power to the people

English councils' local development plan status coverage

NPPF fallout: 52% of councils do not have local plans

More than half of English councils have failed to draw up local plans in time for the NPPF’s introduction later this month

Localism: where did it all go wrong?

It promised to give local authorities the power to write their own development plans, but now experts say it is stifling growth and confusing an already murky planning process, reports Merlin Fulcher


Reaction: Localism Bill becomes Localism Act

The Localism Bill was given Royal Assent yesterday, opening the way for a ‘profound’ overhaul of the English planning system

Richard Rogers

Rogers hits out against ‘fundamentally flawed’ planning reform

Richard Rogers has hit out against the government’s proposed overhaul of the planning system claiming it could merge cities and ‘scar the countryside for generations’

RIBA president Angela Brady

RIBA urges architects to ‘Get local’

The RIBA has urged architects to seize the localism agenda and help communities make the most of their new planning powers


NPPF consultation lands 13,700 responses

The government has given MPs extra time to contribute to the debate over its controversial planning reforms following huge interest in the policy

Geoff Armstrong , partner at town planning practice DPP

Localism: identifying the people that matter is vital

The Localism agenda means more work and more proactivity, so getting the ‘key influencers’ on side early is critical, says Geoff Armstrong

Working Together. Delivering Growth Through Localism

The tale of two Localism Guides

Everybody wants to know what the impact of the government’s localism agenda will really be. Here are two, very different, explanatory guides

Craig Casci of Grid Architects

The answer to the housing crisis: unblocking planning

Craig Casci of Grid Architects argues that housing problems are a symptom of the broken planning system, not the lack of land or delivery

Planning inspectors told to take into account draft NPPF

The planning inspectorate has issued guidance to its officers to start viewing the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) as a ‘material consideration’ in their decisions

George Osborne

Osborne and Pickles: Do not underestimate government commitment to planning reform

Chancellor George Osborne and communities secretary Eric Pickles have defended the governments’ proposed planning reforms amid fierce opposition from conservation groups

Planning minister Greg Clark

Planning minister gives 36 more councils extra planning powers

The fourth wave of councils to be given new neighbourhood planning powers has been named by the Department for Communities and Local Government

  • Press release: Digital giant Google to give expert help to Britain's best high streets


    Winners of the Great British High Street Competition 2015 – sponsored by Boots, the Post Office, Costa and M&S – will be given training on how to make the most of their digital skills to attract new customers.

    One hundred shops, bars and restaurants in each of the competition’s 7 winning categories will get tailor-made tips from Google’s training taskforce – the Digital Garage on Tour.

    The competition boost takes the GB High Street prize pot to £80,000 and was today (1 July 2015) welcomed by High Streets Minister Marcus Jones.

    He said:

    This is an amazing offer. Shops, bars and restaurants will get some of the best in the business to review and improve their digital skills which can be so crucial in helping our high streets to thrive.

    High streets are a vital part of the fabric of Britain – providing great spaces for friends and family to meet and socialise, powering the retail sector and supporting thousands of jobs.

    We want to recognise and celebrate the best high streets across the country. That’s why I’m delighted to announce this new prize to help hundreds of high street retailers innovate and grab the opportunity to not just be great physical businesses but also great digital businesses too.

    The Digital Garage on Tour is a workshop which includes sessions for businesses on finding and keeping customers online and the chance to have one-to-one consultations with Google specialists to chat through their businesses digital needs.

    Eileen Naughton, Google’s MD for the UK and Ireland said:

    Small businesses with a strong web presence grow more than twice as quickly as those without, but while many retailers and businesses know the importance of being online, getting beyond a basic website can seem tricky.

    That’s why we’re sharing our knowledge and expertise by bringing The Digital Garage on Tour to Great British High Street winners, ensuring everyone gets the digital skills they need so that being online is a real growth engine for businesses.

    The first Great British High Street competition last year saw 135 communities battle it out to be crowned the nation’s best. Belper in Derbyshire emerged as the overall winner.

    This year’s competition – which runs until September 1 – gives towns, cities and villages the chance to celebrate how they are helping to revitalise Britain’s high streets.

    For the first time the public will also have the chance to vote directly for their best-loved high street online.

    The competition categories are:

    • best city centre high street
    • best town centre high street
    • best market town high street
    • best coastal community high street
    • best village high street
    • best parade of shops
    • best London high street

    Additionally, this year’s competition sees the launch of a special recognition category for towns that have become ‘rising stars’, or local people who have made an invaluable personal contribution to their local high streets.

    Those shortlisted will also be visited by the Future High Streets Forum judging panel made up of industry leaders from across retail, property and business.

    All entrants to this year’s awards will also get a competition pack filled with helpful top tips to promote their entry alongside banners, logos and posters.

    A renewed focus on our high streets has led to a revival in many areas across the UK with latest figures showing that year-on-year average weekly retail sales increased by 4.4% in May 2015 compared to May 2014.

    This was the 26th consecutive month of retail sales growth and the longest period of sustained year-on-year growth since May 2008.

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  • Press release: Returning troops can get Britain building


    Housing Minister Brandon Lewis has today (30 June 2015) issued a call to arms to the nation’s former servicemen and women to consider new careers building the nation’s homes.

    Housebuilding levels are now more than double those seen in 2009 – meaning developers need more skilled workers than ever.

    Mr Lewis argued that men and women who have served our country in our armed forces are well-equipped with the skills that the industry needs – such as opportunities in construction, civil engineering and the built environment sector.

    He said that anyone looking to make a return to ‘Civvy Street’ could carve out a successful career in construction – with an industry ready and willing to take them on.

    From combat to construction

    The housebuilding industry was devastated by the 2008 economic crash, leading to the loss of a quarter of a million construction jobs.

    That’s why the government has placed housebuilding at the heart of its long-term economic plan – and it’s working with starts now at their highest since 2007.

    Brandon Lewis told armed forces leavers that this means now is one of the best times to build a career in the construction industry.

    Mr Lewis attended a BuildForce recruitment event at RAF Northolt, and spoke to ex-services personnel who are looking to start new careers.

    Nearly 20,000 people leave the armed forces each year, ready to bring their considerable skills and experience to ‘Civvy Street’.

    The regular events offer the chance for people to look beyond bricklaying to see the vast range of skilled jobs on offer and hear form ex-military personnel who work in construction.

    Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said:

    Our efforts have got Britain building with starts at their highest annual level for nearly 6 years, creating thousands of jobs across the country.

    The brave men and women in uniform who have served their country in our armed forces should be at the front of the queue for skilled construction careers when they return to Civvy Street.

    Steve Radley, Director of Policy at Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), said:

    BuildForce helps ex-servicemen and women take the skills they’ve learned in the forces into construction, where they can build the hundreds of thousands of new homes Britain needs.

    The project’s success lies in the strong partnership between industry and the military, which CITB is proud to fund and support. The construction sector needs over 200,000 talented new workers in the next 5 years, and there are rewarding careers available for people of every background and experience.

    Further information

    BuildForce is a new initiative aimed at supporting armed forces leavers considering a career in construction.

    BuildForce have strong links with the highly successful Career Transition Partnership which assists service leavers in translating their acquired skills, experience and qualifications into the second career they aspire to and in finding them sustainable employment when they leave the armed forces.

    Part-funded by the CITB Growth Fund and delivered by the charity Construction Youth Trust, CITB and Circle Three Consulting with the Career Transition Partnership.

    The collaborative employer-led partnership has employer partners including Lend Lease, Carillion, Crossrail, Morgan Sindall and Wilson James, plus employers in their supply chains.

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  • Press release: Quarter of a million homes granted planning permission


    The numbers of homes granted planning permission are now higher than before the 2008 economic crash, latest figures show.

    Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said that this demonstrates how government efforts are working to keep the country building.

    In the year to March, councils across England granted permission for 261,000 new homes – the highest annual total for 8 years.

    Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said:

    The previous system of top-down targets built nothing but resentment. Our reforms, a key part of our long-term economic plan, have changed that.

    It means that permissions have been granted on 261,000 homes in the year to March – higher than the pre-recession peak in 2007 – while housing starts are more than double what they were 6 years ago.

    And with the Housing Bill set to include measures to bring forward brownfield sites, we’re determined that we will keep the country building while protecting the green belt.

    Local support for housebuilding soars

    The 2008 crash devastated the housebuilding industry, and led to the loss of a quarter of a million construction jobs.

    That’s why the government has placed housebuilding at the heart of its long-term economic plan.

    This includes radical reforms to put power directly into the hands of local people over the future development of their area, by putting local plans at the heart of the planning system.

    Already, 64% of councils have adopted a local plan – compared to just 17% in May 2010.

    It means local support for housebuilding has doubled in the last 4 years, from 28% in 2010 to 56% now, while opposition to local housebuilding has more than halved during the same period.

    The forthcoming Housing Bill will go further, and will include measures to create a new register of brownfield land to help fast-track the construction of new homes on previously-used sites near existing communities.

    And with more than 1,500 communities across the country having applied to have their neighbourhood plan designated, the Bill will also include measures to streamline and speed up the process so even more areas can follow suit.

    Further information

    The numbers of homes granted planning permission in the year to March 2015 reached 261,000. Before then, the highest annual total was in 2007, when the numbers of homes granted permission reached nearer 240,000

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  • News story: Fire Minister pays tribute to fallen firefighters at national memorial service


    Firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty were remembered today (26 June 2015) at a memorial service held at Carter Lane Gardens, St Paul’s Cathedral, attended by Fire Minister Mark Francois.

    Following the service, the minister laid a wreath on behalf of the government for all fallen firefighters and paid tribute to their sacrifice.

    The minister said the ceremony at the memorial, which comes during Armed Forces Week, was an opportunity to remember the huge sacrifice of our armed forces and home emergency services in keeping Britain safe.

    Fire Minister Mark Francois said:

    It is an honour to lay a wreath on behalf of the government in memory of our brave firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

    During Armed Forces Week it is especially important we remember the sacrifice and contribution of our home emergency services who have paid the ultimate price to protect our community. I pay tribute to all of them.

    Events are being held up and down the country to mark Armed Forces Week. Guildford will host the national event on 27 June 2015 with a flag raising ceremony at the Guildhall. The flag will also be raised on buildings and famous landmarks around the country including 10 Downing Street and other government departments on Whitehall.

    The government has already enshrined in law the Armed Forces Covenant which sets out the relationship between the nation, the government and the armed forces.

    Further information

    The memorial service of remembrance takes place annually each year and is organised by the Firefighters Memorial Trust.

    The Trust is a registered charity which exists to recognise the commitment and dedication of all members of the fire and rescue service serving within the UK, particularly those who have been killed or who have died following injury or illness, as a result of their duties.

    The Firefighters Memorial depicts a fire officer and 2 firefighters, cast in bronze engaged in firefighting duties. It was originally called ‘Blitz’ and was dedicated to the men and women of the fire service who lost their lives as a result of their duties during World War II. Her Majesty, the late Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, unveiled this memorial on 4 May 1991.

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  • Press release: Brandon Lewis: housing associations can be 'champions of aspiration'


    In a speech to the Chartered Institute of Housing in Manchester today (25 June 2015), the Housing Minister urged the organisations to seize this historic opportunity and help their tenants realise the dream of owning their own home.

    Acknowledging the changes will be challenging, he nevertheless asked them to consider whether it is fair to tell tens of thousands of people that they must “remain renters for the rest of their lives”.

    And he reaffirmed the government’s commitment to reinvest money from sales into more homes and that every home sold will be replaced.

    Under the government’s ambitious plans, around 1.3 million housing association tenants will get the same home ownership opportunities as council tenants through the extension of Right to Buy.

    Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said:

    We want to help anyone who works hard and aspires to own their own home to turn their dream into a reality. The Right to Buy supports those dreams – it’s why we want to give housing association tenants the same home ownership opportunities as council tenants.

    I know these changes will be challenging for housing associations but I also know they care deeply about their tenants. That’s why I’m calling on them to support our vision and become the champions of aspiration.

    Only by working together can we make a real difference to the lives of hard-working people and keep the country building.

    Ambitious housing vision

    Over 200,000 people have been helped into home ownership through government-backed schemes, including more than 30,000 through Right to Buy since the scheme was reinvigorated in 2012.

    The extension to Right to Buy is central to the government’s ambitious vision for housing over the next 5 years that includes:

    • delivering 200,000 starter homes that will be sold with a 20% discount to first time buyers under 40
    • £38 billion of public and private investment to deliver an extra 275,000 affordable homes, achieving the fastest rate of delivery for 20 years
    • creating a £1 billion brownfield fund to get land ready to build on and make way for 400,000 new homes
    • extending the Help to Buy: equity loan to 2020, helping thousands more to become homeowners and giving housebuilders the certainty they need to invest in new buildings and create more jobs

    Housing is central to the government’s long-term plan, with housing starts at their highest annual total since 2007. It means that more than 570,000 new homes have been built since April 2010.

    Figures released last week show that the government has outstripped its ambition for affordable homes, delivering more than 260,000 since April 2010, while its Help to Buy scheme has allowed more than 100,000 people to buy new homes.

    Further information

    The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards. CIH is a registered charity and not-for-profit organisation. They have a diverse membership of people who work in both the public and private sectors, in 20 countries on five continents across the world.

    The CIH Conference, Housing 2015, is the UK’s biggest housing event, attracting more than 8,000 housing professionals, 300 exhibitors and experts from inside and outside of the housing sector who come together to network, share ideas and shape the future of the housing industry.

    The housing fringe is a new feature at Housing 2015. Supported by Wheatley Group, the fringe provides a platform of innovative sessions delivered through the art of drama, music, complimentary drink receptions and debates in an un-conference approach.

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  • Press release: 36,000 new homeowners thanks to Right to Buy


    Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said it was proof that the Right to Buy was fulfilling the aspirations of hard-working people, and reaffirmed the government’s commitment to extend the scheme to housing association tenants.

    Today’s figures (25 June 1015) also show that 3,337 new starts and acquisitions have been made since the scheme was reinvigorated in 2012. This means that the additional homes sold in the first year of the scheme are already being replaced on a one for one basis nationally.

    Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said:

    We want to help anyone who works hard and aspires to own their own home to turn their dream into a reality.

    Right to Buy is central to that vision and has already created more than 36,000 homeowners, helping generate over £2.8 billion for more affordable homes. And we are making good on our promise to replace council homes with those sold in the first year of the reinvigorated scheme now being replaced.

    It really is the benchmark of how a ‘one nation government’ can help hard-working people realise their ambitions and that is why we want to extend it to housing association tenants, so that they too have the chance to own their own home.

    Helping aspiring homeowners

    Helping aspiring homeowners and housebuilding are key parts of the government’s long-term economic plan.

    Since the Right to Buy was reinvigorated, nearly £860 million in sales receipts is being re-invested in house building; levering a further £2 billion of investment over the next 3 years. This means that in total, over £2.8 billion will be raised to invest in affordable house building as a result of the as a result of Right to Buy.

    Council house building starts are now at a 23 year high and almost twice as many council homes have been built in the last 4 years than from 1997 to 2009. Previously, councils were not encouraged to build new homes from sales receipts and only 1 new council home was built for every 170 Right to Buy sales completed.

    Further information

    Since 2010, nearly 200,000 people have bought or reserved a new home through government-backed schemes, including Right to Buy.

    In the 3 months to March, 3,321 people bought their homes under Right to Buy.

    Local authorities received approximately £261 million from Right to Buy sales, 7% higher than the £243 million in the same quarter of 2013 to 2014.

    Total sales through Right to Buy for 2014 to 2015 were 12,304 compared to 11,261 in 2013 to 2014.

    Tenants can benefit from a discount of up to £77,900 outside of London and £103,900 in the capital – they need to have been in council housing for 3 years before being eligible for the scheme.

    In total, more than 260,000 new affordable homes have been delivered in England since 2010.

    The government has outlined an ambitious vision for housing over the next 5 years. This includes extending the Right to Buy, meaning around 1.3 million housing association tenants will get the same home ownership opportunities as council tenants through the extension of Right to Buy.

    When the Right to Buy was reinvigorated in 2012, the government committed to replacing nationally every additional home sold as a result of the changes. Local authorities have three years from the sale of each affordable home to replace the property.

    In 2012 to 2013 there were 3,054 additional homes sold. By the end of 2014 to 2015 there were 3,337 new starts and acquisitions, meaning that authorities have delivered one-to-one replacements on additional homes sold in just 2 years.

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