LocalismThe AJ's bloggers track the latest developments in the plan to hand power to the people
More than half of English councils have failed to draw up local plans in time for the NPPF’s introduction later this month
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
The Localism Bill was given Royal Assent yesterday, opening the way for a ‘profound’ overhaul of the English planning system
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’
The RIBA has urged architects to seize the localism agenda and help communities make the most of their new planning powers
The government has given MPs extra time to contribute to the debate over its controversial planning reforms following huge interest in the policy
The Localism agenda means more work and more proactivity, so getting the ‘key influencers’ on side early is critical, says Geoff Armstrong
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 argues that housing problems are a symptom of the broken planning system, not the lack of land or delivery
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
Chancellor George Osborne and communities secretary Eric Pickles have defended the governments’ proposed planning reforms amid fierce opposition from conservation groups
The fourth wave of councils to be given new neighbourhood planning powers has been named by the Department for Communities and Local Government
Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, raised the flag of Lincolnshire today (1 October 2014) outside the Department for Communities and Local Government headquarters in Westminster, London to celebrate the important role counties play in the nation’s cultural heritage.
The government is championing local communities continuing to cherish and celebrate such traditional ties and community spirit. Ministers have previously changed the law to make it easier to fly flags without a permit from the council – these new freedoms include flying the Lincolnshire flag.
The flag was hoisted on Lincolnshire Day, which is celebrated on 1 October every year and marks the Lincolnshire rising, a revolt by Catholics against the establishment of the Church of England in 1536.
Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s home county is also home to the Red Arrows RAF display team and an original copy of the Magna Carta dating back to 1215. Other notable people who hail from Lincolnshire include the scientist Sir Isaac Newton and Poet Laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson.
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles said:
I’m delighted for Her Majesty’s Government to recognise and celebrate Lincolnshire by flying its flag in Whitehall. England’s counties continue to form an important part of our cultural and local identity in this country and many people remain deeply attached to their home county. This sense of pride and shared identity is one of the things that binds communities together.
Lincolnshire County Council Leader Councillor Martin Hill said:
Lincolnshire has much to be proud of and our flag celebrates the diversity of our culture and geography. Events like Lincolnshire Day give us the chance to reflect on and celebrate our area’s uniqueness, while recognising how our individuality weaves into the fabric of the nation.
It’s about honouring our local roots, our traditions and our culture, while marking what makes us great today. Our local flag symbolises all of this and we fly it with pride – I’m delighted that London will be celebrating with us.
This is part of a series of steps to champion England’s local and national identities. Earlier this year, the department launched a new initiative to support the ‘tapestry’ of traditional English counties being displayed on street and road signs. The government also published a new online interactive map of England’s county boundaries.
Planning rules have been changed to allow for councils to put up boundary signs marking traditional English counties – including the likes of Cumberland, Huntingdonshire, Westmorland and Middlesex. The government has also proposed changes to highways regulations to allow traditional county names to appear on boundary road signs.
The government has previously changed Whitehall rules to allow local and county flags to be flown without planning permission, and supported the Flag Institute in encouraging a new wave of county and community flags to be designed and flown by local communities.
Lincolnshire flag picture from Wikimedia Commons.
Eleven areas across the country will benefit from the latest government-backed opportunity to help aspiring custom or self-builders get their projects off the ground, under plans announced today (30 September 2014) by Brandon Lewis.
The Housing Minister said these 11 areas would be at the forefront of the government’s efforts to help those looking to build their own homes turn their dreams into reality.
The Right to Build is the latest in a range of measures designed to help those looking to build their own home. These 11 chosen areas will establish and maintain a register of prospective custom and self-builders in the area and begin to identify shovel-ready sites for those on the register - becoming the first to offer local people the right to design and build their own home.
Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said:
We’re determined to help anyone who aspires to own their own home – whether that’s buying on the open market through schemes like our Help to Buy, or to build.
That’s why from today, 11 areas across the country will be the first to offer a new Right to Build, one of a range of measures we’re taking to ensure anyone who wants to build their own home has the opportunity and help they need to do so.
This is one of a range of measures we’re taking to help aspiring homeowners, but also to get Britain building – and thanks to our efforts, house building levels are at their highest since 2007 and rising.
Right to Build
House building is at the heart of the government’s long-term economic plan, including supporting people to design and build their own homes - often at a lower cost than buying an existing property.
Ministers are introducing the Right to Build to help more people to do this: aspiring custom or self-builders will be able to register their interest with the council, who will then be required to offer suitable serviced plots for them that are for sale at market value.
This will not be a free-for-all - those looking to build will still need to go through the normal planning application process. But it will open up the opportunity to self-build beyond those with “grand designs” so even more people can realise their self-build ambitions.
These 11 areas announced today will be the first to offer this new right to their residents from today, and will each receive a share of £550 000 to do it. They are:
- Cherwell District Council, who will receive £90,000 and are committed to deliver 2,000 custom-build homes over the next 10 years
- South Cambridgeshire District Council, who will receive £50,000 and will bring forward at least 100 plots of land for custom builders and to begin selling land from January 2015
- Teignbridge District Council, who will receive £100,000 and will be implementing a ground breaking ‘5% self-build’ policy in their newly adopted Local Plan so 5% of all new homes in the area are delivered by custom and self-builders
- Shropshire Council, who will receive £10,200 to bring forward 6 hectares of land for self-builders by linking with Stoke Council and local social landlords to find suitable plots
- Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council, who will receive £15,000 to begin bringing land forward for sale in autumn 2014 by using formerly-developed council-owned land to support aspiring self-builders in the area
- West Lindsey District Council, who will receive £5,000 to make self-build plots available on previously-developed public sector land in the area
- Exmoor and Dartmoor National Park Authorities, who will receive £28,000 to explore how local self-builders can be helped while protecting important countryside
- Pendle Borough Council, who will receive £46,000 to deliver self-build plots in the area and explore how this could be used to further deliver affordable homes
- Sheffield City Council, who will receive just under £100,000 to further deliver over 800 self-build sites, and look to support groups planning their own custom builds
- South Norfolk District Council, who will receive £25,000 to work with Saffron Housing Association in the area to deliver 40-60 custom build plots
- Stoke-on-Trent City Council, who will bring forward 72 hectares of land for local self-builders in the area
These 11 areas will now test the Right to Build to help ultimately increase the size of the custom and self-build sector.
This new measure is in line with proposals included in a Private Member’s Bill currently going through Parliament by MP for South Norfolk Richard Bacon, which would place a duty on local councils to keep a register of individuals who have expressed an interest in finding land for their self-build projects.
This first wave of areas will form part of a consultation on Right to Build. It will be decided whether the changes should be extended across the country later this year.
This is 1 of a range of measures the government has introduced to help aspiring custom and self-builders.
- a £150 million investment to bring delivery of up to 10,000 serviced plots - shovel-ready sites where a developer can be hired to build a home
- making custom builders exempt from paying the community infrastructure levy
- introducing a new £30 million Custom Build Homes Fund, which makes available repayable finance for larger multi-unit projects and grant funding for community self-builders
- planning guidance which makes clear that councils should help custom-builders and establish demand in their area
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles raised the flag of Westmorland today (29 September 2014) outside his department’s headquarters in Westminster to celebrate the important role historic counties continue to play in the nation’s cultural heritage.
The flag was hoisted to mark Westmorland Day, which is celebrated every year in recognition of Ralph Neville being appointed the first Earl of Westmorland by King Richard II in 1397.
England’s traditional counties date back over 1,000 years of history, but many of them have been sidelined in recent years, including the municipal restructuring by Edward Heath’s government in 1965 and 1972. The administrative local authority of Westmorland was absorbed into Cumbria in 1974.
By contrast, this government is championing local communities continuing to cherish and celebrate such traditional ties and community spirit. Ministers have previously changed the law to make it easier to fly flags without a permit from the council – these new freedoms include flying the Westmorland flag.
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, said:
Today it is right to celebrate Westmorland and I am delighted to fly the flag of this historic county outside my department’s headquarters.
England’s historic counties continue to form an important part of our cultural and local identity in this country and many people remain deeply attached to their home county. This sense of pride and shared identity is one of the things that binds communities together. No amount of administrative tinkering with boundaries can change that.
Picture Wikicommons copyright, courtesy of The Westmorland Association.
This is part of a series of steps to champion England’s national identities. Earlier this year, the department launched a new initiative to support the ‘tapestry’ of traditional English counties being displayed on street and road signs.
The government also published a new online interactive map of England’s county boundaries.
Planning rules have been changed to allow for councils to put up boundary signs marking traditional English counties – including the likes of Cumberland, Huntingdonshire, Westmorland and Middlesex.
The government has proposed changes to highways regulations to allow traditional county names to appear on boundary road signs.
The flag was formally registered in 2012.
Updated: Added links to 'Rent to buy 2015 to 2017: prospectus'.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles launched a new £400 million programme today (26 September 2014) to boost building of new rental homes that will also help hard-working people later upgrade into home ownership.
Current schemes like Help to Buy have boosted house building and allowed 53,000 households buy a home with a fraction of the deposit they would normally require.
Today’s new Rent to Buy scheme goes further by providing more flexibility for people who want to rent affordably now, save for a deposit, and then either buy the new home (or a different home) later.
Rent to Buy
Under the scheme, housing associations and other providers can bid for a share of £400 million in low-cost loans to build up to 10,000 new homes across the country to be built from 2015 to 2018 - they will mainly consist of 1 and 2 bedroom apartments.
Landlords must then make the homes available for rent at below-market rates for a minimum of 7 years. This fixed period will give tenants the opportunity to save up for a deposit and get ready to buy their own home.
At the end of the period, the tenant will have first refusal to buy the property – alternatively they may choose to move out and buy a different property, or rent another property either privately or with the housing association.
If the home is sold, the housing association will then have the option to use any returns on their investment to build even more affordable homes in the area. Alternatively, they will still have a home, which they can look to rent at an affordable rate to another tenant who needs help to buy.
This programme is part of a broader £23 billion affordable homes programme for 2015 to 2018, as well as other schemes like Help to Buy (low deposit mortgages) and Right to Buy (home ownership for council tenants). These schemes are being arranged now, so construction works starts from 2015.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:
This government is standing by people who work hard and do the right thing, and helping them move on and up in life.
Both house building and the number of first time buyers are now at their highest rate since 2007. But there is more to do. As part of our wider housing programme, this new scheme will help increase the provision of low-cost rented accommodation and provide a springboard for young people to upgrade to home ownership down the line.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said:
Through this pioneering scheme I’m challenging the capital’s developers to get building, and deliver the homes Londoners need, as fast as humanly possible. Loans are available to significantly accelerate the pace of development, especially on bigger schemes, and unlock additional supply. Through this exciting new fund we hope to provide thousands of brand new homes many years sooner than would otherwise be possible, and make them available to rent at below market rates for hardworking Londoners.
Housing associations will have up to 16 years to pay back the low-cost loans. Until the loans are repaid, the homes must be made available for affordable rent. Only once the loans are paid can the housing association sell or rent it out at a market rate.
Of the £400 million of government loan funding for this scheme, half of this will be available in London. London-based housing associations will bid for the funding through the Greater London Authority.
The programme is part of the government’s broader £23 billion affordable housing programme for 2015 to 2018.
Ministers are taking action against 11 councils to defend the independent free press by using new laws endorsed by Parliament to clamp down on frequent town hall freesheets.
Legal action could be taken in a matter of weeks if 11 councils fail to stop or justify actions considered not to be in compliance with the local government Publicity Code.
The Code sets out a range of provisions on the frequency, content and appearance of taxpayer-funded news-sheets. This includes limiting publication to prevent competition with local newspapers.
Action is being taken against Tower Hamlets Council in East London over the frequency of its weekly municipal newspaper East End Life, and also highlighting provisions in the Code on lawfulness of council publicity.
The government is also taking action against the London Boroughs of Enfield, Greenwich, Hackney, Hillingdon, Lambeth, Newham and Waltham Forest, as well as Luton, Medway and North Somerset councils over the frequency of their municipal newspapers.
Local Government Minister Kris Hopkins said:
Frequent town hall freesheets are not only a waste of taxpayers’ money but they undermine the free press. Localism needs robust and independent scrutiny by the press and public.
Councillors and political parties are free to campaign and put out political literature but they should not do so using taxpayers’ money.
This is the eleventh hour for 11 councils who we consider are clearly flouting the Publicity Code. They have all now been given written notice that we are prepared to take further action, should it be necessary, against any council that undermines local democracy – whatever the political colour.
Formal notice letters giving detailed explanations of concerns about non-compliance have been sent to 11 councils. They are the first step on the road to any legal action by the Secretary of State to require compliance with the Publicity Code, using his powers introduced by the Local Audit and Accountability Act.
The councils now have a fortnight to show why a legal direction, the Secretary of State may choose to issue, is not necessary. Any council that does not follow any subsequent legal direction could end up facing a court order requiring compliance.
Parliament gave the Secretary of State powers to issue directions requiring councils to comply with the provisions of the Publicity Code after ongoing concerns that a small number of local authorities were not complying with the provisions in the Code, originally introduced under Margaret Thatcher’s government.
Strengthening these provisions was in the Coalition Agreement published in 2010, reflecting policy commitments made by both coalition parties before the general election.
The recommended code of practice on local authority publicity applies to all decisions by local authorities relating to council publicity such as leaflet campaigns and the publication of council newspapers and news-sheets. It recommends that publicity by local authorities should:
- be lawful
- be cost effective
- be objective
- be even-handed
- be appropriate
- have regard to equality and diversity
- be issued with care during periods of heightened sensitivity
It does not inhibit publicity produced by political parties or councillors at their own expense.
The Local Government Act 1986, as amended by the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014, gives the Secretary of State the power to direct a local authority to comply with some, or all, of the provisions of the recommended code of practice on local authority publicity. This code applies to all local authorities in England.
The process for issuing a direction is for the Secretary of State to first give notice in writing to the authority of the proposed direction so the authorities can make any relevant representations. The Secretary of State may not issue a direction before the 14-day representation-making period has elapsed.
If the direction is not complied with, a person having appropriate interest (such as a Council Tax payer, elector, or a councillor of the authority concerned, or the Secretary of State), may seek a court order requiring compliance with the direction. Non-compliance with a court order may be contempt of court.
On appropriate publicity the Code states that:
Where local authorities do commission or publish newsletters, news-sheets or similar communications, they should not issue them more frequently than quarterly, apart from parish councils which should not issue them more frequently than monthly.
There have been a number of campaigns by organisations including the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for the government to ‘call-in’ a planning application for 5,000 new homes on the Lodge Hill site in Medway.
A ‘call-in’ involves Whitehall taking a decision away from the elected local council and this being made by a planning minister.
Only a small minority of such cases are called-in each year, generally where there is a wider national impact. This request for a call-in is being carefully considered with due process – but this should not be confused with a decision on the merits of the substantive application.
Given the Secretary of State’s membership of the RSPB, the quasi-judicial decision will be made by a different planning minister in line with standard propriety guidance.