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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: Boost for Londoners as red tape slashed on short term lets


    Housing Minister Brandon Lewis welcomed the law change, which brings the capital into line with the rest of the country.

    He said the measures, introduced in the last Parliament, will free homeowners from the “bureaucratic headache” of applying for planning permission just to rent their home out for a few weeks.

    Bringing London up to speed with the internet age

    Thousands of properties in the capital are rented out on a short term basis through sites such as AirBnB, OneFineStay and Gumtree.

    But until today, London homeowners looking to rent their properties out for up to 90 nights would have had to apply for planning permission – under laws dating back to the 1970s.

    Those who failed to do so could have faced a fine of up to £20,000 for each unlawful rental.

    But changes to the law coming into force today alter that, and put London on the same footing as other towns and cities in England.

    Now, Londoners looking to rent their home out for up to 90 nights a year can do so without seeking permission from their council.

    Today’s rules mean short-term letting of homes is now allowed to a maximum 90 nights in a calendar year, putting London on the same footing as other English towns and cities.

    Until today these rentals were potentially in breach of outdated 1973 Greater London Council laws requiring Londoners to get planning permission for rentals of fewer than 90 nights, or face a fine of up to £20,000 for each unlawful rental.

    This law, which was poorly and confusingly enforced across the capital, has now been amended by the Deregulation Act, whose provisions on short term lets come into force today.

    Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis said:

    These outdated and needless rules that restricted London homeowners in what they could do with their home have now been swept away.

    Londoners should be able to use their homes for short term lets without the bureaucratic headache of getting planning permission from the council – just like everywhere else in the country.

    Today’s changes will allow them to earn extra money, increase choice for visitors and bring the capital’s short term rental market up to date with the internet age.

    Further information

    Measures to protect local amenity include:

    • ensuring that, to benefit from the new flexibility, the person providing the accommodation must be liable for council tax – thereby excluding business premises

    • ensuring that, in exceptional circumstances, councils will be able to request that the Secretary of State agrees to small localised exemptions from the new flexibility, where there is a strong case to do so

    The changes will not affect any existing clauses in tenancy contracts which prohibit subletting by tenants.

    Following a 2014 consultation the government published details in February 2015 of how the law would be reformed. The measures were included in the Deregulation Act that received Royal Assent in March, and come into force today.

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  • Press release: Over a million more people given the chance to own their own home


    • Government to confirm first Queen’s Speech will include a ground-breaking Housing Bill
    • Right to Buy to be extended to 1.3 million housing association tenants
    • Sweeping new measures, including a Right to Build, to also boost housebuilding

    Communities Secretary Greg Clark is to announce landmark changes to spread home ownership to millions, as part of the government’s commitment to working people.

    Communities Secretary Greg Clark said:

    Our Housing Bill will offer over a million people a helping hand onto the housing ladder. That is what a government for working people is about – making sure people have the security they need to build a brighter future for them and their families.

    Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said:

    Schemes like Help to Buy are helping thousands of people who want to buy their own home – but we need to go further.

    Anyone who works hard and wants to get on the property ladder should have the opportunity to do so, which is why tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech will include measures so a million more people have the chance to do exactly that.

    And with housing starts at their highest since 2007, we’ll take steps that will get workers on sites and keep the country building.

    The vast majority of people want to own their own home. While substantial progress has already been made in helping people achieve this, with more than 200,000 households helped to buy a home since 2010 through government-backed schemes, further action must be taken.

    The Bill includes a comprehensive range of measures to offer England’s 1.3 million housing association tenants the chance to benefit from the same opportunities council tenants enjoy, with significant discounts to buy their homes.

    Receipts from selling current property will help build replacement affordable homes on a one-for-one basis. This means the number of homes across all tenures will effectively double for each home sold, increasing national housing supply and creating a new affordable home for those in need from each sale.

    First-time buyers will be further helped by plans to deliver 200,000 Starter Homes, which will be available at a 20% discount to first-time buyers under 40.

    A ‘Right to Build’ in the Bill will also help increase housing supply and diversify the housing sector by giving people the right to be allocated land with planning permission for them to self-build or commission a local builder to build a home. Self-build delivers a majority of homes in many other countries and can act as a boost to smaller and medium sized builders.

    The Bill will confirm housing as a priority for the government, and ensure home ownership is once again seen as an attainable aspiration.

    Further information

    Right to Buy

    Discounts available under the Right to Buy were significantly increased in 2012, and currently stand at a maximum £77,900 outside London and £103,900 in the capital.

    But this only applies to those who live in council housing, or whose homes have transferred from a council to a housing association.

    It means social tenants living in the same neighbourhood can have vastly different levels of discount – or no Right to Buy at all.

    Mr Clark said the Housing Bill will “create a level playing field” to ensure any social tenant wanting to buy their home would have the opportunity to do so at the same levels of discount – regardless of whether they live in a council or housing association property.

    The Right to Buy policy will in itself increase house building and reduce social housing waiting lists and housing associations will be able to use the revenues from sales to invest in more affordable housing.

    The sales receipts will be put toward new affordable homes, which along with government funding will allow one for one replacement in the same area.

    Rather than one rented property there will be 2 properties, an old one with a new homeowner, and a new one available for those in need on the waiting list.

    To fund this policy the Housing Bill will also require councils to sell their most expensive housing when it falls vacant – with the receipts used to provide new affordable homes in the same area, and the surplus used to fund the Right to Buy for housing association tenants. Remaining funds will be invested in a new Brownfield Regeneration Fund to increase the supply of new housing.

    Building Starter Homes, releasing brownfield land and ‎creating a new Right to Build

    The government has also announced plans to deliver 200,000 new Starter Homes across the country.

    These new homes will be sold with a 20% discount to first-time buyers under 40, with the Housing Bill paving the way to ensure this process can be completed quickly.

    A new register of brownfield land will also help fast-track the construction of new homes on previously-used sites near existing communities.

    A ‘Right to Build’ in the Bill will also help increase housing supply and diversify the housing sector by giving people the right to be allocated land with planning permission for them to self-build or commission a local builder to build a home. Self-build delivers a majority of homes in many other countries and can act as a boost to smaller and medium sized builders.

    ‎The new Right to Build will offer support to aspiring self-builders, by requiring councils to identify, and release shovel-ready plots so people don’t have to wait years to get work underway.

    And neighbourhood planning – already benefiting almost 1,500 communities with more joining them each week – will be streamlined and sped up.

    Further action

    The government has already announced plans to extend the Help to Buy: equity loan scheme to 2020 – helping even more people buy their own home with a fraction of the deposit they would normally require.

    The government will also continue to take strong action on other key housing policies, including the affordable housing programme, and the Help to Buy ISA – which will help get Britain building.

    Office address and general enquiries

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    Media enquiries

  • Press release: Brandon Lewis welcomes housebuilding surge


    Updated: The time period regarding housing starts was incorrect. It now correctly reads: Over 40,000 homes were started between January and March this year – 31% higher than the previous quarter, and 136% higher than the March quarter in 2009.

    The latest housebuilding figures today (21 May 2015) show starts have more than doubled since those seen during the same period in 2009 – with both starts and completions rising over the past year.

    The numbers of homes completed has also risen sharply, to their highest levels for nearly 6 years.

    Getting the country building

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

    That’s why the government has made housebuilding an important part of its long-term economic plan, with a range of measures introduced to get the country building again.

    In the year to March, work started on 140,500 homes – 5% higher than during the previous year.

    Over 40,000 homes were started between January and March this year – 31% higher than the previous quarter, and 136% higher than the March quarter in 2009.

    It means housing starts are at their highest level since 2007.

    Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said:

    Housebuilding is at the heart of our plan to ensure the recovery reaches all parts of our country. We’re turning around an industry that was devastated and getting the country building again.

    Today’s figures show these efforts are reaping results, with housebuilding starts having more than doubled since 2009, and completions at their highest for nearly 6 years.

    It is vital we maintain this momentum, getting workers back on sites and homes built - giving more people the chance to own their own home.

    The figures also show 125,110 homes completed between April 2014 and March this year – 11% higher than the previous year and their highest annual total since 2009.

    And housebuilding has increased across the country. For example:

    • in Barnet, where starts increased by 63% over the year
    • in Manchester, where starts increased by 84% over the year
    • in Winchester, where starts increased by 120% over the year

    Further information

    The housebuilding statistics, covering the March quarter of 2015, are published today.

    The government has introduced a range of measures to get the country building again. They include:

    • helping aspiring homeowners – over 200,000 households have been helped into home ownership through schemes including Help to Buy, with leading developers building more as a direct result
    • reforming the planning system – putting power back into the hands of local people to have a say over the future development of their area, meaning support for local housebuilding has increased and planning permission was granted on 253,000 homes last year
    • building more affordable homes – the government plans to deliver 275,000 affordable homes by 2020, leading to the fastest rate of affordable housebuilding for 2 decades

    Office address and general enquiries

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    Media enquiries

  • Government response: Mark Francois appointed Minister for Portsmouth


    The new Minister of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government Mark Francois has also been confirmed as Minister for Portsmouth.

    This will dovetail with his responsibilities for Coastal Communities in the department.

    Mark Francois said:

    As my late father served in the Royal Navy, I am delighted to be appointed as Minister for Portsmouth. Having spent time at the Ministry of Defence, including as Armed Forces Minister, I have visited Portsmouth on a number of occasions and am well aware of the city’s importance to both the economy and the Royal Navy. I plan to visit the city in the near future and am determined to champion its cause across government.

  • Government response: Further intervention in London borough of Tower Hamlets


    The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has today (29 April 2015), following the judgment of the Election Court on the 23 April 2015, proposed additional intervention powers for the commissioners to order Tower Hamlets to take any actions needed to safeguard good governance throughout the council until a new mayor and top officer team are in place and fully bedded in.

    The proposed additional intervention Directions would enable the commissioners to require Tower Hamlets – deputy mayor, and mayor once elected, cabinet, council, or officers – to take any steps which the commissioners consider are needed for good governance and sound financial management.

    The proposed Directions would be in force only as long as necessary. Following the election of the mayor and the 3 statutory officers taking up their posts the Secretary of State would review their continuing need with a view to ending these additional Directions by 31 October 2015 or earlier if appropriate.

    The Secretary of State has also appointed 2 new commissioners to join the existing team of commissioners headed by Sir Ken Knight - Chris Allison, who has extensive policing and security experience, and Alan Wood, who has significant experience in children’s services.

    The Secretary of State has also issued a Direction requiring the council to appoint, through open competition, a Head of Paid Service, who will be responsible for managing all the council’s staff and exercising delegated executive functions.

  • Press release: Funding announced for veterans to attend VE Day 70 Commemorations


    Funding will be provided for Second World War veterans to go towards the cost of travel to attend events in London for the 70th Anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day.

    Veterans are invited to the national commemorations organised by HM Government taking place in the capital over the VE Day 70 weekend from 8 to 10 May, and it is hoped the funding will enable more to attend.

    Second World War veterans wishing to attend the above events are asked to accredit as soon as possible and assistance will be provided to those without access to the internet. All veterans can be accompanied by a companion, or family member and online registration is available at

    Telephone enquiries regarding registration can be made via 0808 802 8080.

    Places will be available for a series of commemorative events over the weekend including on VE Day itself, Friday 8 May, when a Service of Remembrance will be held at The Cenotaph, with a national 2 minute silence at 3pm. On Sunday 10 May, there will a Service of Thanksgiving at 11am at Westminster Abbey attended by HM The Queen, followed by a parade from the Abbey to Horse Guards Parade and into St James’s Park, where the Legion will host a lunch reception for the veterans.

    The funding towards travel costs has been made available from through LIBOR fines levied and will be administered the Big Lottery Fund.

    Those preferring to attend an event in their own communities closer to home will be welcomed at celebrations across the UK. Event information can be found on the main webpage and local government websites.

    More information about VE Day is available on the Legion’s dedicated VE Day website at where members of the public are also invited to share their personal experiences of VE Day.

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