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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: The New Enterprise Zones


    In total there will be 44 Enterprise Zones in England – 18 new, 24 existing (of which 8 have extensions), plus Blackpool Airport and Plymouth Enterprise Zones which were previously announced in the Budget that took place in March 2015.

    The new and extended Enterprise Zones are:

    1. Aerohub Extension (Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP)
    2. Aylesbury Vale (Buckinghamshire Thames Valley LEP)
    3. Bristol Temple Quarter and Bath and Somer Valley (West of England LEP)
    4. Birmingham Enterprise Zone Curzon Street (Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP )
    5. Cambridge Compass (Greater Cambridge and Greater Peterborough LEP)
    6. Carlisle Kingmoor Park (Cumbria LEP)
    7. Ceramics Valley (Stoke and Staffordshire LEP)
    8. Cheshire Science Corridor (Cheshire and Warrington LEP)
    9. Didcot Growth Accelerator (Oxfordshire LEP)
    10. Dorset Green (Dorset LEP)
    11. Enterprise M3 (Enterprise M3 LEP)
    12. Enviro-Tech (Hertfordshire LEP)
    13. Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft Enterprise Zone Extension (New Anglia LEP)
    14. Greater Manchester Life Science (Greater Manchester LEP)
    15. Heart of the South West (Heart of the South West LEP)
    16. Hillhouse Chemicals and Energy (Lancashire LEP)
    17. Humber Enterprise Zone Extension (Humber LEP)
    18. Infinity Park Derby Extension (D2N2 LEP)
    19. Luton Airport (SEMLEP)
    20. M62 Corridor (Leeds City Region LEP)
    21. NE Round 2 (North East LEP)
    22. New Anglia (New Anglia LEP)
    23. Newhaven (Coast to Capital LEP)
    24. North Kent Innovation Zone (South East LEP)
    25. Tees Valley Enterprise Zone Growth Extension (Tees Valley Unlimited LEP)
    26. York Central (York, North Yorkshire and East Riding LEP)

    From which the following are extensions:

    • Aerohub Extension
    • Bristol Temple Quarter and Bath and Somer Valley
    • Birmingham Enterprise Zone Curzon Street
    • Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft Enterprise Zone Extension
    • Humber Enterprise Zone Extension
    • Infinity Park Derby Extension
    • North Kent Innovation Zone
    • Tees Valley Enterprise Zone Growth Extension

    Office address and general enquiries

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  • Press release: Department for Communities and Local Government’s settlement at the Spending Review 2015


    The Spending Review and Autumn Statement delivers on the government’s priority to provide security to working people at every stage of their lives. It sets out a 4 year plan to fix the public finances, return the country to surplus and run a healthy economy that starts to pay down the debt. By ensuring Britain’s long term economic security, the government is able to spend £4 trillion on its priorities over the next 4 years.

    For the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) settlement this mean:

    • more than £20 billion of gross capital investment over the next 5 years to support housing and local growth
    • doubling the housing budget from 2018 to 2019 to deliver 400,000 new homes, the biggest affordable house building programme by a government since the 1970s
    • further spending on targeted initiatives that tackle homelessness and support the victims of domestic violence
    • overall resource savings of 29% by 2019 to 2020 through better financial management and further efficiency
    £ billion 2015-16 baseline 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 (1)
    RDEL (2) 1.5 1.4 1.4 1.3 1.2  
    CDEL 3.1 4.0 3.7 4.0 3.6 4.3
    TDEL 4.6 5.4 5.1 5.3 4.7  

    (1) 2020-21 Resource DEL departmental budgets have only been set for some departments. For the rest, these budgets will be set in full at the next Spending Review.

    (2) In this table, Resource DEL excludes depreciation.


    The government will double the housing budget from 2018 to 2019 to deliver at least 400,000 affordable homes including 200,000 Starter Homes, 135,000 new Help to Buy Shared Ownership homes and 10,000 Rent to Buy homes. The government will also extend the Right to Buy scheme to Housing Association tenants, create a London Help to Buy scheme with a 40% equity loan, release enough public sector land for 160,000 homes, and provide £310 million of funding to deliver 15,000 homes at Ebbsfleet, the first garden city in the UK for over 100 years.

    To protect the most vulnerable in society, the government will maintain current levels of spending on homelessness support services in real terms and provide £40 million for services for victims of domestic abuse, tripling the dedicated funding provided compared to the previous four years.

    The government will continue to invest in the Troubled Families programme to delivering better outcomes for 400,000 families by 2020 with efficiencies found from central budgets.

    From 2017 to 2018 the government will devolve and reform increased funding for managing temporary accommodation, giving local authorities more control and flexibility.

    To reduce division and build cohesive communities, the government will maintain current levels of funding for community integration programmes. This funding will be targeted to support the recommendations of Louise Casey’s review of opportunity and integration in isolated and deprived communities. The government remains committed to preserving the memory of the Holocaust through the creation of a world leading memorial and learning centre.

    Long-term investment

    The government will support growth and job creation through a new wave of Enterprise Zones and extending the Coastal Communities Fund to 2020 to 2021.

    Government will support areas to make the most of the economic opportunities created by HS2 and will continue to provide funding to support regeneration schemes at Bicester, Brent Cross, Ebbsfleet and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

    Efficiency and reform

    DCLG will deliver substantial savings through better financial management, enabling the removal of budgetary contingencies that are no longer required and further efficiencies. This includes a further 20% reduction in the department’s paybill, with total savings of £94 million from administration expenditure by 2019 to 2020.

    DCLG will also work closely with the Valuation Office Agency to digitise the collection of local taxes, funded through up-front capital investment. This will generate efficiencies and support the move to full business rates retention.

    DCLG will provide at least £74 million of funding for the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme, to ensure fire and rescue services can benefit from the latest mobile digital technology.

    The government will consult on reforms to the New Homes Bonus, including means of sharpening the incentive to reward communities for additional homes. It will further consult on reducing the length of payments from 6 years to 4 years.


    DCLG will operate the £12 billion Local Growth Fund, which is more than double the size of equivalent funds in the last Parliament, and will empower local communities to deliver growth by giving them greater control of public spending, allowing them to target their own priorities.

    DCLG will continue to oversee delivery of devolution deals agreed with city regions and other areas.

    Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark, said:

    This One Nation Government is determined to build a million homes and give the chance for a million people to become homeowners. Today’s settlement represents the biggest, boldest and most ambitious plan for housing in a generation. This government has got the country building again and the measures announced today will give hundreds of thousands of families the opportunity to become home owners.

    On top of building the homes our country needs across the nation we are devolving powers to local people who know their communities best to drive jobs, nurture businesses and improve local services.

    Office address and general enquiries

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    Media enquiries

  • Press release: Local government funding at the Spending Review 2015


    The Spending Review and Autumn Statement delivers on the government’s priority to provide security to working people at every stage of their lives. It sets out a 4 year plan to fix the public finances, return the country to surplus and run a healthy economy that starts to pay down the debt.

    By ensuring Britain’s long term economic security, the government is able to spend £4 trillion on its priorities over the next 4 years.

    For local government, there is a cash terms rise from £40.3 billion to £40.5 billion in 2019 to 2020 with councils having almost £200 billion over the course of this Parliament to spend on local services. This represents a fall of just 1.7% per year in real terms over the Spending Review period.

    Alongside this we are giving more powers and greater flexibility for town halls to take control of their finances while protecting vital public services and boosting adult social care through a £3.5 billion investment to help support the most vulnerable.

    This comes from:

    • a social care Council Tax ‘precept’ of 2% will allow councils responsible for delivering adult social care to raise up to £2 billion a year by 2019 to 2020
    • £1.5 billion government will make available to local authorities for social care services

    Local Government Funding (1)

    £ billion 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 Real % Average annual real growth Cash change 15-16 to 19-20
    Local Government Spending 40.3 38.6 38.9 39.7 40.5 -6.7 -1.7 +0.5%
    Local Government Central Grant (LGDEL) (2) 11.5 9.6 7.4 6.1 5.4 -56.3 -18.7  
    Local Authority Self Financed Expenditure (3) 28.8 29 31.5 33.6 35.1 +13.1 +3.1  

    (1) The Local Government Settlement will be set out next month (Dec 2015)

    (2) In this table, Resource DEL excludes depreciation

    (3) OBR measure of locally raised funding including Council Tax and business rates


    • by the end of the Parliament, local government will retain 100% of business rate revenues; alongside savings announced elsewhere, this will come with additional responsibilities and empower local authorities to deliver services in a way that is right for their area
    • it is for individual authorities to determine how best to make savings in light of local circumstances and resources


    • a social care Council Tax ‘precept’ of 2% will allow councils responsible for delivering adult social care to raise up to £2 billion a year by 2019 to 2020
    • this would be enough to support more than 50,000 older people in care homes or around 190,000 in their own homes, enabling people to retain independence and remain in their own home for longer
    • Council Tax will still be lower in 2019 to 2020 in real terms than it was in 2010 to 2011
    • by 2019 to 2020, the government will make £1.5 billion available to local authorities to support social care

    Together, this £3.5 billion investment will help secure services for the most vulnerable.

    Long term investment

    • the Uniform Business Rate will be abolished and all local authorities will gain the power to reduce rates to support business and job growth
    • the government will allow directly elected mayors to add a premium to business rates to pay for new infrastructure, provided they have the support of the local business community

    Efficiencies and reform

    • although the revenue support grant is being phased out, other sources of income like Council Tax receipts and business rates are forecast to increase, meaning a real savings required of 6.7% in this SR period compared to 14% announced at SR10, lower than most other unprotected departments
    • DCLG will consult on changes to the local government finance system to pave the way for the implementation of 100% business rate retention, transferring an additional £13 billion to local government
    • overall local government spending will be higher in cash terms in 2019 to 2020 than in 2015 to 2016
    • to reform services and make them more efficient, a package of new flexibilities will be introduced to encourage local authorities to release surplus assets
    • local authorities will be able to spend 100% of their fixed asset receipts investing in making services more efficient (local authorities currently hold £225 billion in assets)
    • the government will also issue new guidance to encourage local authorities to rein in excessive salaries – currently the average pay of an upper tier council boss is higher than the Prime Minister’s

    The Local Government Finance Report will be laid before Parliament in early 2016 by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Primary legislation will also be required for the 100% retention of business rates.

    Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark, said:

    Councils have worked hard over the past 5 years to deliver a better deal for local residents, while satisfaction with public services has been maintained. Whilst councils need to continue to play their part in cutting the deficit, they will still have almost £200 billion to spend on local services over the lifetime of this parliament - a reduction of just 1.7% in real terms each year.

    We have listened to calls from local government to provide more support for adult social care, with a £3.5 billion investment to help support elderly and vulnerable people. Together with our radical devolution agenda and reform of business rates, we are giving local leaders sweeping new powers and financial freedoms to boost local growth and create jobs.

    Office address and general enquiries

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    Media enquiries

  • News story: Help to Buy: new announcements


    1. Help to Buy Shared Ownership: current restrictions on who can buy a home through shared ownership will be removed from April 2016

    Shared ownership allows people to buy a share of a home – rather than the whole house – and then buy a greater share over time as they can afford to. They pay rent on the rest of the property.

    Currently, these are allocated in several different ways including criteria set by local councils, for example whether potential buyers work in the local area or if they are already in council housing.

    Help to Buy Shared Ownership will lift the limits so that anyone who has a household income of less than £80,000 outside London, and £90,000 inside London, can buy a home through shared ownership. Only military personnel will be given be priority over other groups. The scheme will apply across England.

    People can buy a share between 25% and 75% of a home. The rent on the rest of the property won’t be more than 3% of the amount left.

    For example, on a house worth £227,000 where the buyer has bought a 40% share, the rent won’t be more than 3% of the remaining 60% - in this case £4,000 a year, or £340 a month.

    2. London Help to Buy: If you live in London the government will lend you 40% the price of your home from 2016

    Help to Buy Equity Loans are already open to both first-time buyers and home movers on new build homes in England with a purchase price up to £600,000.

    Currently, if you’re able to pay at least 5% the value of your home as a deposit, the government will lend you up to 20% of the rest of the value of the property, alongside your mortgage of up to 75%.

    Equity Loan will be now available until 2021. And, to reflect the current property market in London, from early 2016 the government will increase the upper limit for the equity loan it gives new buyers within Greater London from 20% to 40%.

    With London Help to Buy equity loan:

    • you’ll need to contribute at least 5% of the property price as a deposit
    • the government will give you a loan for up to 40% of the price
    • you’ll need a mortgage of up to 55% to cover the rest

    More information on how to use London Help to Buy will be available in early 2016 on the Help to Buy website.

    3. First-time buyers will be able to get a 20% discount on 200,000 new Starter Homes

    Starter Homes are new build homes available at 20% off the market price. They are only open to first-time buyers under 40. You can register to find out about Starter Homes in your area.

    £2.3 billion will be spent on building 200,000 Starter Homes over the next five years.

    This money will be given to house builders to provide a 20% discount on new homes. House builders can now apply to make their developments Starter Homes.

    4. Money raised from tax on people buying their second home will be used to help those struggling to buy their first home

    From 1 April 2016 people purchasing additional properties such as buy to let properties and second homes will pay an extra 3% in stamp duty.

    5. Housing Association tenants will be able to buy their homes, with the first sales in 2016

    Currently, most people who rent a council home have the right to buy their home from the local authority. There are discounts on the home price available in many cases, depending on how long people have lived there.

    Right to Buy will now be extended to housing association tenants during 2016, giving 1.3 million households the chance to become home owners.

    A small number of housing associations will be piloting the scheme in the next few months. More information is available on the Right to Buy website.

  • Press release: Number of new homes keeps rising - highest annual increase since 2008


    • 186,000 more homes this year
    • over 753,000 additional homes since 2010
    • highest annual increase in homes since 2008

    Greg Clark today (20 November 2015) welcomed the latest figures showing the country is building again, with 753,000 new homes provided since 2010.

    The Communities Secretary said that these figures demonstrated how the government’s actions to reform the planning system and put power in the hands of local people were working.

    Today’s figures reveal there were an additional 186,000 new homes provided in the year to September - the highest annual increase since 2008. This takes the total increase since 2010 to 753,000.

    Communities Secretary Greg Clark said:

    By reforming the planning system and putting power back into the hands of communities, we’re giving residents the opportunity to have their voice heard over how their local area is developed.

    This is a far cry from the top-down bureaucracy of the past that left residents feeling powerless over how their local area was developed, with housebuilding levels reaching their lowest since the 1920’s.

    We’re getting Britain building again and working our way towards our ambition to build a million new homes by 2020.

    Getting Britain Building

    The government is currently moving ahead with its landmark Housing and Planning Bill, which will give an extra million people the chance to achieve their dream of home ownership.

    Measures include:

    • new affordable Starter Homes – a new legal duty will be placed on councils to guarantee the delivery of Starter Homes on all reasonably sized new development sites, and to promote the delivery of Starter Homes in their area
    • permission in principle for sites identified in plans and brownfield registers – to give certainty around the sites that are suitable for housing, while protecting the green belt
    • planning reforms to support small builders – requiring councils to ensure they have permission shovel ready plots to match the local demand for custom build

    Further information

    The figures on additional homes shown by today’s council tax statistics are consistent with the housing supply figures in the Net supply of housing statistics release published on 12 November 2015.

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  • Press release: Councils have over £22 billion in reserves


    In the last 15 years, the amount held by local authorities in their non-ringfenced reserves has increased significantly – by nearly 170% in real terms.

    Communities Secretary Greg Clark said that he recognises the need for councils to be responsible with taxpayers’ money and save for the future but they should also make efficient use of their assets and resources to best meet the needs of their local communities.

    Communities Secretary Greg Clark said:

    With local government accounting for a quarter of all public spending, it is right that they are called on to play their part in dealing with the deficit.

    Today’s figures show how they are well placed to do so, with local authorities holding £22.5 billion held in non-ringfenced reserves – up 170% in real terms over the last 15 years.

    As we continue to secure our country’s economic future and cut the deficit, now is the time to make efficient use of their assets and resources to provide the services local people want to see.

    Further information

    Today’s figures show that over the past year, local authorities added nearly £1 billion more to their non-ringfenced reserves – taking the total to £22.5 billion.

    This is up from the £13 billion local authorities held in 2010.

    Today’s local authority revenue expenditure and financing statistics include this statement:

    In real terms from 2000-01 to 2014-15, revenue expenditure (local authority spending) has risen by 20.5%, government grants awarded to local authorities have risen by 21.1%, and Council Tax has risen by 21.4%. In real terms, non-ringfenced reserves have increased by 169.9% from 1 April 2001 to 1 April 2014.

    Public satisfaction with local services has increased over the past 5 years.

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