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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: Superfast broadband boost for the Isles of Scilly


    Minister for Communities and European Programmes, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon welcomed the arrival of superfast broadband to the Isles of Scilly today (21 November 2014) making the islands amongst some of the best connected islands in the world.

    Isles of Scilly households, businesses and visitors now have access to broadband speeds up to 80 megabytes per second – 10 times faster than the previous maximum of up to 8 megabytes.

    The new superfast broadband system will benefit not only the residents and businesses based in the Isles of Scilly but also tourists – who account for 85% of the Island’s income – who want to stay online and connected when they’re on holiday.

    Superfast broadband has been brought to the area as part of the £132 million Superfast Cornwall initiative between the government, BT and Cornwall council, which plans to make fibre broadband available to 95% of homes and premises on Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly by the end of 2014.

    Speaking via video link from the launch event in Cornwall, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad said:

    Bringing fibre optic broadband to the Isles of Scilly is another demonstration that Britain means business. No matter where in Britain you live and work, this government is committed to empowering you with the tools you need to connect and communicate in the 21st century.

    Through accessing government funding and working in partnership with BT and Cornwall council we have made an investment in the future of the Isles of Scilly which will ensure that this community will continue to thrive for generations to come.

    The Superfast Cornwall programme will be completed in 2015. It will bring fibre optic broadband to 95% of homes and businesses in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, with the remaining 5% enjoying faster broadband speeds thanks to alternative technologies, such as satellite communications.

    The Superfast Cornwall programme is one of a number of government funded programmes in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to boost growth as part of the government’s long-term economic plan. Alongside the Superfast Cornwall funding, the Coastal Communities Fund, the Regional Growth Fund and Business Boost Programme contribute an additional £45.5 million to help create more jobs and back enterprise in the region.

    Further information

    For further information on the Superfast Cornwall programme visit

    The Superfast Cornwall programme is part-financed by the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Convergence European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Programme 2007 to 2013. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the managing authority for the ERDF programme. The ERDF is one of the funds to help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support local businesses and create jobs.

    The total investment in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly through the Growth Fund programme is £24.6 million which includes investments in St Mary’s Airport, Redruth Flood Migration Works and Truro East Park and Ride.

    The total investment in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly through the Business Boost programme is £17 million. This fund benefits businesses of every size and type operating in every sector.

    The Coastal Communities Fund investment in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly totals £3.9 million. This includes investments in social enterprise training in Porthleven, the development of the National Lobster Hatchery and building the South West Coastal Path.

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  • Press release: Secretary of State welcomes launch of interfaith website


    Communities Secretary and Minister for Faith Eric Pickles welcomed the launch of a new website dedicated to promoting tolerance and understanding of faith and the work of interfaith organisations.

    The new section to the Jewish News website will be the first of its kind hosted by a single-faith newspaper in the UK and will provide a dedicated space for news, features and opinion covering faith and interfaith organisations and initiatives.

    The new interfaith website section has been produced by Jewish News in association with the Pears Foundation.

    The launch of the dedicated website section is to coincide with Inter Faith Week 2014 and was conceived in the wake of an increase in anti-semitic incidences over the summer.

    Eric Pickles said:

    I congratulate Jewish News for their new website, which will share stories about the great work people of different faiths are achieving together in communities across the country.

    This type of interfaith collaboration will help build friendships and understanding, and strengthen the best British traditions of tolerance and respect for each other’s beliefs.

    Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer said:

    The new interfaith channel aims to be a place for people of all religions and none to celebrate similarities, debate differences and tackle issues of common concern. A place where bridges can be built and new relationships and friendships can blossom.

    Trevor Pears, Executive Chair of the Pears Foundation, said:

    We are delighted to be supporting this excellent forward thinking initiative, which gives much needed additional voice to the positive inter-faith work happening in our communities.

    Inter Faith Week is held every November by the Inter Faith Network to bring people of different faiths together to serve their communities and learn more about each other. DCLG is investing £440,000 over 2 years in the Inter Faith Network to promote strong and sustainable relations between different faith communities.

    This year’s Inter Faith Week was kicked off by Mitzvah Day. Mitzvah Day is an annual event which galvanises participants – regardless of age, faith, gender or socio-economic position – to donate their time and energy to a diverse range of causes that make a difference to those in need around the world.

    Photo credit: Myles Fisher for The Inter Faith Network.

    Further information

    Inter Faith Week is part of the government’s wider programme designed to support stronger communities. This includes the Near Neighbours programme where 692 projects across the country have been funded to get people of different faiths working together to improve their neighbourhood.

    Pears Foundation is a British family foundation whose programmes are rooted in social justice, individual responsibility and the imperative to make a positive difference. The Foundation aims to create meaningful social change, increase respect and understanding and inspire people to support their communities and the causes they care about.

    Jewish News is a weekly newspaper which caters for the Jewish Community in Britain.

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  • Press release: Minister signs £190 million Tees Valley Growth Deal


    A £190 million funding package that will provide a major boost to the Tees Valley economy by creating up to 1,000 jobs, building up to 1,500 homes and strengthening transport links for local businesses was officially signed by Local Growth Minister Penny Mordaunt today (Thursday 20 November).

    The Tees Valley Growth Deal is part of a £12 billion government programme to revitalise local economies. It includes:

    • a £12.8 million transport package that will improve road access to several key business locations, including Tees Valley Airport and the Central Park enterprise zone site
    • £5.8 million for the Tees Valley Business Growth Hub that will ensure companies are able to expand by getting the right type of common-sense, practical support they need
    • £3 million for the Tees Valley Advanced Manufacturing Park to provide vital services for the offshore wind, oil and gas and sub-sea sectors

    Local Growth Minister Penny Mordaunt said:

    This package is part of our long-term economic plan to boost businesses in the north and provide more security for hard-working families. This deal will deliver real benefits to local firms and is great news for the Tees Valley. I am delighted to be able to put pen to paper and make it happen.

    The Tees Valley Growth Deal was announced in July and will provide £90.3 million of government funding as well as at least another £100 million of additional investment from local partners and the private sector.

    Stephen Catchpole, Managing Director of Tees Valley Unlimited, the Local Enterprise Partnership for Tees Valley, said:

    The signing of the Tees Valley Growth Deal is important for the area as it will support the creation of hundreds of new jobs, provide state of the art research and innovation centers as well as training opportunities for young people, who are our economic future, enable the building of new homes and improve transport links across Tees Valley all of which will help benefit businesses and residents.

    The Growth Deal further empowers our local authority and private sector partners to work together to identify economic priorities and to develop investment strategies and projects at a local level.

    The minister signed the deal during a tour of businesses and growth schemes in the region.

    The visit began in Redcar and Cleveland where £580,000 from the government’s Coastal Communities Fund is supporting a range of projects along the seafront, including Coatham Boating Lake, Redcar Beacon, the Rock n’ Roll Diner and the town’s revitalised market. Since April 2013, the fund has supported more than 40 small enterprises and start-up businesses, and helped more than 50 people enter employment through new jobs and apprenticeships.

    On Stockton’s high street Ms Mordaunt saw first hand how the Town Team has helped drive a £38 million rejuvenation of the town centre, which includes a central focal point with new seating, grass and a water feature as well as a dedicated space for the regular market.

    At Darlington’s newly completed Tees Valley Business Growth Hub the minister saw how £6.3 million of government funding has helped create 3,200 square metres of high quality office space for small and medium enterprises. The project will see the creation of at least 25 new businesses and 350 new jobs within its first 15 years.


    The official signing ceremony of the Growth Deal took place at the Tees Valley Unlimited Local Enterprise Partnership’s offices in Stockton.

    The Tees Valley Business Growth Hub is located on the Tees Valley Enterprise Zone site. It has been made possible by a £3.3 million grant from the European Regional Development Fund.

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  • Press release: 700,000 new homes under this government


    New figures out today (20 November 2014) show 700,000 more homes have been delivered in this Parliament with empty homes at a 10-year low, Housing Minister Brandon Lewis has announced.

    The figures show the government’s plan to increase house building to help hard-working families onto the property and boost jobs and growth in the British house building industry is working.

    The figures show:

    More affordable and Right to Buy homes

    The Housing Minister also welcomed the latest figures showing more hard-working tenants taking up their Right to Buy, and an increase in the number of affordable homes built.

    Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said:

    Whether it’s building new homes or bringing empty properties back into use, we have pulled out all the stops and are delivering the homes this country needs.

    There are now 700,000 more homes in England than there were in 2009, house building is up 16% compared to last year, hard-working tenants are taking up their Right to Buy and the numbers of empty homes are now at a 10-year low.

    This is all thanks to the efforts we’ve made since 2010, reforming the planning system, paving the way for developers to do their job and giving aspiring homeowners the help they deserve as part of our wider and long-term economic plan.

    Further information

    After Right to Buy discounts were increased in April 2012, annual sales by councils quadrupled from 2,638 to 11,261.

    The maximum discounts available to social housing tenants through the Right to Buy now stand at £77,000 outside London and £102,700 in the capital. Discounts will increase annually according to the Consumer Price Index level of inflation.

    Anyone looking to take up their Right to Buy can now be guided through the process by a team of experts.

    The Right to Buy advisers are on hand to offer free advice, support and information, and tenants can ring a dedicated local rate helpline to speak to a member of the service.

    Overall nearly 30,000 homes have been sold under the reinvigorated Right to Buy scheme (including from housing associations). Councils in London accounted for nearly a third of all sales in the last quarter – the second highest percentage recorded in a quarter since 2006 to 2007.

    In the last quarter, councils received £210 million in receipts from these sales. Receipts from additional sales are now being recycled into building new affordable homes, and councils started work on 930 new homes, bringing the total number started to almost 4,800. This is highest quarterly figure since reinvigoration in 2012.

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  • Press release: Government acts to improve e-cigarette safety


    The government has today (17 November 2014) launched a number of measures to boost the safety of e-cigarettes in response to increasing concerns over the number of fires caused by their use.

    Responding to a growing number of incidents caused by faulty e-cigarette chargers, the Department for Communities and Local Government has put forward a number of tips to help consumers stay safe.

    Fire Safety Minister Penny Mordaunt MP said:

    Fire safety is our first priority, which is why in Electrical Fire Safety Week it is important to make sure consumers have access to good advice on these products, including tips on how to minimise any risk of accidents from over-charging or faulty chargers.

    To help consumers use e-cigarettes safely, the Fire Kills campaign offers the following tips for these products and general advice for Electrical Fire Safety Week:

    • follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer carefully
    • take notice of any warnings supplied with the product
    • ensure that e-cigarettes are not left charging for long periods of time
    • do not leave e-cigarettes plugged in overnight or when you are out of the house
    • look for the CE mark that indicates chargers comply with European Safety standards
    • do not overload plug sockets
    • check that your electrical products have not been recalled
    • avoid buying counterfeit or substandard goods
    • switch off appliances at the socket when not in use

    In addition the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has commissioned a number of Trading Standards departments to investigate whether current e-cigarette safety information is sufficient and widely available enough to consumers.

    The move is one of a number of measures the government is taking as part of Electrical Fire Safety Week, part of a campaign to ensure that families have more knowledge of the risks to their home from electrical devices and take practical steps to avoid them.

    Consumer Affairs Minister, Jo Swinson said:

    We have all seen the recent media coverage about fires caused by e-cigarettes, so it is clear that consumers need to be aware of the risks posed by them and know how to charge them safely.

    This is why I have asked Trading Standards to look at what information is currently available to consumers and to explore whether we need to do more to make sure there is enough guidance to help them stay safe.

    Further information

    For more information visit the Fire Kills campaign’s Facebook page.

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  • Press release: £3.4 million boost for communities to save a local building or asset


    Five community buildings including a Grade II* listed lido, a village shop, a former stable block as well as former derelict land are to receive a £3.4 million government boost to help them reopen to the public or transform their existing use.

    These buildings and sites across England are all valued community assets, and today’s funding will pay for repairs, refurbishment and create local jobs.

    Each community asset will receive between £130,000 and £440,000 from a £3.4 million Department for Communities and Local Government community assets fund, managed by the Social Investment Business Group. Further allocations from the fund will be made later this year (2014).

    Communities minister Stephen Williams said:

    Local people and communities know best how they want to run things, from setting up neighbourhood plans deciding on new development to taking over local services.

    The monies announced today will help these 6 inspirational schemes get off the ground and not only will they provide leisure, cultural and care facilities for the future, they will also create local jobs, helping to build both a stronger economy and a fairer society.

    The assets receiving funding in this round are:

    Eyes Open Community Interest Company, Suffolk

    £266, 968 - the aim of this project is to purchase the freehold to a Grade II* listed former bank ensuring the sustainability of a Community Arts Centre in the small market town of Eye in rural Suffolk.

    Ilmington Community Shop Ltd, Warwickshire

    £135,000 as a contribution towards the purchase and refurbishment costs of a church building no longer used as a place of worship. The building will be converted into a viable community centre consisting of a shop and café. The shop will also serve as an informal meeting place particularly in the summer as it is regularly visited by cyclists and walkers passing through. This new venture will bring social, economic and environmental benefits to the area and will also be of particular benefit to residents who find walking difficult.

    Saltdean Lido Community Interest Company, Saltdean

    £439,800 to refurbish the Saltdean Lido site, a Grade II* listed, 1930’s art deco building, located less than 5 miles from Brighton pier. The ultimate aim is to extensively renovate and conserve the entire Saltdean Lido complex to use all year round as a centre for Saltdean. This grant will help them open the pool in summer 2015 and run community events and a cafe.

    Squash Nutrition, Liverpool

    £382,573 to purchase and develop derelict land in Toxteth, Liverpool, to build and develop a community food centre called Toxteth Food Central. The group intend to build a space from which they can deliver community services and develop an integrated community food garden. Services will include skills training, volunteer experiences, fairly priced food in an urban food shop, free nutritional health training, a local community cafe and opportunities for sharing health support.

    The Reader Organisation, Liverpool

    £382,573 to refurbish the Calderstones Barn and Stable Block at Calderstones Park in Liverpool, transferred in January 2013 from Liverpool City Council. The barn and stable buildings will be converted into a ‘Story Barn’, a children and families focused community provision aimed at providing high quality reading events and activities for the local and wider region.

    Willowbrook Hospice, St Helens

    £400,000 to purchase and renovate Alexander House, the former Pilkingtons Glass head office. The building has lain empty for 6 years and is now derelict. The grant will allow for the creation of a community Wellbeing Centre where patients approaching the end of their lives and their families can meet for positive support, giving them the confidence to be cared for at home and keeping them out of hospital.

    Caroline Forster, Director of Investments at the Social Investment Business said:

    We are proud to have backed some of England’s most inspired community enterprises transform local buildings and assets to deliver social and economic benefits in their communities. This fund has demonstrated how entrepreneurial our communities can be with a little targeted support at the right time and will inspire many others to follow in their steps and play a greater part helping their communities flourish.

    Today’s funding brings the total funding under the programme to £21 million since 2012 to early stage community ventures looking to buy or manage a building for the community or deliver a local service. More than 700 local organisations from across England have now taken the first step towards ensuring that buildings like the local pub are not sold off and lost to the community.

    Bruce Potts, one of the Directors of the Saltdean Lido Community Interest Company said:

    In a couple of years, when we open, this is going to be a place where everybody in the community can come down and find time to swim in the pool, to go for a lovely meal in our restaurant and delicatessen, to spend time in the library, or even have a retro 1930s wedding as will have a wedding license!

    Millions of people across England are now benefitting from the government’s community rights programme, coming together to protect pubs, libraries and leisure centres against sell off, creating neighbourhood plans to decide on new local development and deliver local jobs and improved local services.

    The total number of uses of the rights has now hit 3,000, with more than 1,500 much loved buildings, assets and green spaces listed and 1,200 neighbourhood plans well underway.

    See our new interactive community rights map to find out about listed buildings and other community rights uses in your area.

    Further information

    Over the last 3 years, the fund has backed 31 organisations with almost £10 million of capital grants to undertake transformative projects. See further case studies from previous funding rounds.

    Communities across England that are thinking of taking on a building or other asset of community value can visit my community rights for detailed information on other sources of funding or visit Just Act, run by Community Development Foundation for insight and peer support to help community enterprises at every stage.

    Those looking to take on ownership of a pub can call the Plunkett Foundation on 01993 810730 or send an email to

    The Social Investment Business is one of the UK’s leading social investors and has invested more than £340 million in 1,300 charities and social enterprises since 2002. They provide simple finance to help them grow and transform the communities in which they work.

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