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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: Government remains committed to stable rental sector for hardworking tenants


    Housing Minister Brandon Lewis today (24 October 2014) welcomed a fall in the cost of rent in real terms for the nation’s hard working tenants.

    Official figures from the Office for National Statistics show that private rental increases remain below the rate of inflation.

    The private rented sector plays a vital role in the housing market, providing a flexible option for millions of people. Under this government rents have fallen in real terms every year across the country.

    The government is working to build a bigger, better private rented sector, increasing supply and giving tenants more choice, without strangling the sector in red tape which would slow down investment and push up rents.

    The £1 billion Build to Rent scheme, is set to deliver up to 10,000 newly-built homes specifically for private rent and, as part of the second round of the scheme, bidders are encouraged to offer longer-term, family friendly tenancies.

    Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said:

    Under this government rents have fallen every year in real terms across the country.

    We’re working to build a bigger, better private rented sector. By boosting supply, through a £1 billion Build to Rent fund which will deliver up to 10,000 new homes for rent and through a model tenancy agreement we are giving tenants the confidence and choice to get a fair deal.

    This is being done without the need to wrap the industry in red tape which would only force up rents and slow down investment.

    Giving tenants a better deal

    In addition to boosting investment in the sector the government is helping tenants to get a fairer deal. New measures are ensuring that people looking to rent a home are better informed and have more confidence they will be treated fairly. These include:

    • a new model tenancy agreement, which landlords can use to offer longer tenancies of 3 years or more, providing extra security and stability for families
    • new regulations meaning all letting and property management agents have to join a compulsory redress scheme
    • a new code of practice, backed by the sector, helping to maintain and improve standards for the management of property in the sector

    In addition to this the government published a new how to rent guide in June that provides clarity on what people should be able expect from their rental deal. The government is also bringing forward legislation through the Consumer Rights Bill to require all lettings agents’ fees to be published prominently in their offices and on websites to prevent agents introducing hidden fees.

    Further information

    See Office of National Statistics figures out today on the private rented sector.

    In addition to the £1 billion Build to Rent Fund the government is offering up to £10 billion in housing guarantees which are already starting to attract institutional investment in the sector.

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  • Statement to Parliament: Technical consultation on business rates retention for shale


    I am today announcing the start of a consultation on draft regulations to implement 100% local retention of business rates on shale oil and gas sites.

    We believe shale oil and gas may hold potential for adding to the UK’s energy sources, helping to improve energy security, create jobs and meet carbon targets. And to ensure shale development is safe there are robust rules in place to ensure on-site safety, prevent water contamination and mitigate seismic activity and minimise air emissions.

    We also believe that local councils and communities should share in the economic opportunities and benefits of shale oil and gas. The draft regulations we are publishing today will ensure that local councils that host shale oil or gas sites can benefit from millions of pounds in business rates paid by site operators. The measure could be worth up to £1.7 million for a typical site and will be funded by central government.

    The draft regulations define the sites on which 100% retention of business rates will apply and set out the arrangements for sharing that revenue between the different tiers of local government. Consultation will allow us to ensure we have correctly defined shale oil and gas sites and that the regulations, once made, will give local government the certainty they need over future business rates income.

    Once we have considered responses to the consultation we will lay the regulations before Parliament with a view to them coming into force by 1 April 2015. I have placed a copy of the consultation document and draft regulations in the Library of the House, and the consultation document is also available online.

  • Press release: Plans for the Right to Build across England


    Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis today (24 October 2014) announced plans to support aspiring custom and self builders who want to build their own homes.

    The minister published details of plans for a new Right to Build across England, so that anyone who wants to build their own home will be able to turn to their council for help in finding a suitable plot of land.

    This comes at the same time as a government supported Private Member’s Bill on plans for a Right to Build register is being taken forward through Parliament by the MP for South Norfolk Richard Bacon.

    Eleven areas are already pioneering the Right to Build scheme, developing a register of prospective custom builders in the area and matching them up to shovel ready sites.

    Mr Lewis said making custom build a more realistic option for more people was part of the government’s drive to support aspiring home owners, including a new generation of custom builders who see it as an alternative to buying an existing home.

    The consultation seeks views from local planning authorities, the custom build sector and prospective custom builders about what they would like to see from the Right to Build. It looks at:

    • the local demand for custom build
    • meeting demand on the register with available land
    • how the Right to Build will work within the existing planning framework

    Planning Minister Brandon Lewis said:

    Custom build should not be the preserve of a select few but a realistic opportunity for anyone who wants to build their own home and that’s why we’re supporting this Bill.

    Eleven areas are already leading the way on the Right to Build. And our plans for this Right across England will help more people turn their ambitions into reality and clear the way for a new generation of custom builders.

    This is just one of a range of measures we’re taking to help aspiring homeowners, and to get Britain building – and thanks to our efforts, house building levels are at their highest since 2007 and rising.

    Supporting aspiring custom builders

    House building is at the heart of the government’s long-term economic plan, including supporting people to design and build their own homes – which can often be at a lower cost than buying an existing property.

    This will not be a free-for-all – those looking to build will still need to go through the normal planning application process.

    This is one of a range of measures the government has introduced to help aspiring custom and self builders.

    Others include:

    • a £150 million investment fund to support delivery of up to 10,000 serviced plots
    • making custom builders exempt from paying the community infrastructure levy and scaling back section 106 tariffs
    • introducing a £30 million Custom Build Homes Fund in October 2012, which has made available repayable finance for larger multi-unit projects and grant funding for community custom builders
    • planning guidance that asks local planning authorities to assess the demand for custom build and plan to meet this

    Further information

    See the consultation on the Right to Build. The closing date for responses is 18 December 2014.

    Custom home building involves individuals or groups of individuals commissioning the construction of a new home or homes from a builder, contractor or package company. Custom build includes self builders who build their own homes themselves.

    The 11 areas that have been selected as Right to Build vanguards that will help aspiring custom builders get their projects off the ground are:

    • Cherwell District Council
    • South Cambridgeshire District Council
    • Teignbridge District Council
    • Shropshire Council
    • Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council
    • West Lindsey District Council
    • Exmoor and Dartmoor National Park Authorities
    • Pendle Borough Council
    • Sheffield City Council
    • South Norfolk District Council
    • Stoke-on-Trent City Council

    For more details on the current Right to Build vanguards see this press release.

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  • Press release: Councils handing down millions to parishes


    Local Government Minister Kris Hopkins has today (23 October 2014) praised a majority of councils who will pass millions in government grants to their parishes this year.

    New figures published by the department show £31 million of local Council Tax support funding will be handed down from billing authorities to parishes during 2014 to 2015.

    But the minister expressed concern about a small minority of authorities who are failing to pass sufficient money down to parish councils. He will be writing to 31 councils in particular who intend to pass none of this cash to their parishes.

    This government believes that as the closest part of democracy to residents, parishes have an active and important role to play in local government decision making and therefore need to be an effective player in that process. Therefore billing authorities and parishes need to recognise the importance of working together in the interests of local people.

    Kris Hopkins said:

    I applaud the can-do councils who are collaborating with parishes by passing down the money due so they can continue to deliver a range of vital services for local people including running leisure centres, maintaining public spaces, parks and play areas and providing support for the elderly.

    The rest of this money should also be passed down and I expect billing authorities and parish and town councils to make sure this happens.

    Further information

    From April 2013, Council Tax benefit was replaced by local Council Tax support schemes.

    Funding for local support schemes was passed to billing authorities via the local government settlement. £3.3 billion was made available in 2013 to 2014 and 2014 to 2015, and the same amount will be provided in 2015 to 2016.

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  • Press release: New investment will provide thousands more affordable homes


    Housing associations can bid for a share of around £800 million of government funding to help provide thousands more affordable homes across the country, Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said today (23 October 2014).

    This builds on the £886 million available through the first funding round in July and which resulted in initial allocations for 2,697 firm schemes that will provide 43,821 new affordable homes. Today’s second funding round takes the total figure for government investment in affordable housing to more than £1.7 billion for 2015 to 2018.

    Taken together with private finance this will result in total investment of around £23 billion and lead to the fastest rate of affordable housebuilding for 2 decades with 165,000 new affordable homes from 2015.

    Mr Lewis said the programme has already been a key part of government efforts that have got Britain building, and will ensure this success continues for years to come.

    Government delivers on affordable housing

    Housebuilding is a critical part of the government’s long-term economic plan – turning around the after-effects of the 2008 housing crash that led to the lowest level of housebuilding for any peacetime year since the 1920s.

    Since 2010, the government has provided 204,000 new affordable homes, while the first phase of this latest investment has funded schemes that will provide a further 43,821 new affordable homes from 2015.

    We are also keen to promote greater use of innovative construction methods, for example advanced manufacture technologies and bids from providers which make use of such methods are encouraged.

    Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said:

    The government is delivering on affordable housing for the communities and people of this country with more than 200,000 new affordable homes since 2010.

    Our latest investment is a clear sign of the government’s continued commitment to increasing the overall housing supply and affordable housing in particular. As well as building homes this funding is also a key part of our long-term economic plan, creating construction jobs as we deliver a further 165,000 new affordable homes from 2015.

    The fund will be managed through an open ended bidding process allowing housing associations to apply for funding at any time rather than by a fixed deadline. This will enable them to bring forward schemes for delivery during the 2015 to 2018 period which will include specialist, supported or rural housing, which can often require a longer lead time.

    Affordable homes provided across the country

    The Affordable Homes Programme includes, affordable rented homes and affordable home ownership schemes, and is a key part of the government’s long-term economic plan. And with every new home supporting a job this multi-billion pound programme is helping get people back into work.

    A fifth of the affordable homes provided last year, and nearly a quarter of the total since 2010, were provided in London.

    The success of the Affordable Homes Programme is one of a number of indicators that England is building following the housing crash in 2008.

    Others include:

    • planning permission was granted for 230,000 new homes in England in the last 12 months – equating to planning permissions for 630 homes a day
    • the Help to Buy schemes have helped over 53,000 people in England get on the property ladder with a fraction of the deposit they would normally require – leading developers are building more as a direct result of the scheme, with private housebuilding up a third compared to last year
    • annual council housebuilding starts in England are at a 23-year high
    • housing starts in England are at their highest since 2007
    • the numbers of empty homes in England are now at a 10-year low

    Further information

    See the current allocations list under the initial phase.

    See the breakdown of affordable housing supply by local authority district.

    All schemes tabled for consideration will be subject to rigorous assessment, based on meeting local priorities, value for money and deliverability.

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  • News story: Messages for Diwali 2014


    Diwali, also known as Deepavali or the Festival of Lights, begins tomorrow (23 October 2014).

    The annual festival is celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs around the world and signifies the spiritual victory of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. Preparations and rituals for Diwali typically extended over a 5 day period, but the main festival night coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika.

    Communities Minister, Stephen Williams, said:

    Diwali shines a spotlight on what our society holds dear; family and friends, forgiveness over blame and wisdom over ignorance.

    Through the Festival of Lights we are also reminded that our country is home to a broad mix of different faiths and traditions. Communities which hold their own diverse cultures but are united by shared British values and common goals.

    To all those who will celebrate this joyous occasion on Thursday, I wish you, your families and loved ones a very Happy Diwali.

    See Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon’s recorded video message:

    Lord Ahmad’s message for Diwali 2014

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