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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: Enterprise zones boom with thousands of new jobs attracted this year


    • enterprise zones have now attracted 19,000 jobs to sites across the country
    • since opening for business the zones are now home to 540 firms
    • more than 2,000 trainees and apprentices are benefiting from zones, tackling local skills gaps

    Enterprise zones are playing a vital role in growing the local and national economy, delivering greater prosperity to our economy and have now attracted more than 19,000 jobs latest figures show.

    The 24 zones report that they have now attracted £2.2 billion of private investment and more than 500 new businesses across a range of key industries including the automotive, aerospace, pharmaceutical and renewable energy industry sectors.

    Along with boosting the number of jobs the zones are proving popular with colleges seeking to set-up facilities and training opportunities to fill gaps in the local skills market.

    Local Growth and the Northern Powerhouse Minister James Wharton said:

    We are seeing enterprise zones across the country create thousands of jobs and billions of pounds of investment, boosting the local and national economy. This is testament to the hard work of local people making the most of opportunities the zones bring for attracting firms.

    Having 19,000 new jobs on zones is a significant milestone and one which we will continue to build as part of the government’s long-term economic plan to rebalance the economy.

    Britain is a great place to do business and there is much untapped potential local areas can build on, to make the most of their unique benefits, which is why more areas and businesses will be able to benefit from the support in a new wave of zones.

    The government launched enterprise zones in April 2012 as part of the long-term economic plan to rebalance the economy so all parts of the country have the tools to thrive. The Chancellor announced the further expansion of the programme as part of his summer Budget.

    The zones, which are delivering a multi-billion boost to local economies, offer a number of benefits including tax incentives, simplified planning and superfast broadband for firms.

    Successes include:

    • Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone has attracted 2,000 jobs since being declared open for business in April 2012. The landmark jobs figure incorporates jobs in an impressive range of sectors including engineering, ICT, low carbon and the creative industries. The success of the enterprise zone is set to continue with the number of new jobs forecast to reach 4,000 in 2017.
    • Tees Valley Enterprise Zone is building a reputation for attracting leading global companies including Air Products and Lotte Chemicals. There have been 14 private sector investments locating across the 12 sites generating over £750 million of private sector investment.

    There is activity on all zones, whether it is continued growth on established sites or former derelict sites being brought back to life.

    And to ensure more places can reap the benefits that comes with having an enterprise zone, all Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) now have the opportunity to bid for a zone in their area.

    This will allow more places outside of our core cities – and particularly smaller towns - to tap into the opportunities that zones can bring in terms of delivering local jobs and growth.

    Businesses basing themselves on enterprise zones can access a number of benefits including:

    • up to 100% business rate discount worth up to £275,000 per business over a 5-year period
    • 100% enhanced capital allowances (tax relief) to businesses making large investments in plant and machinery on zones in assisted areas
    • 100% retention of business rate growth for LEPs, to enable them to fund development on enterprise zones

    For places keen to have an enterprise zone the deadline for bids is 18 September 2015.

    Further information

    Data on the outputs of the enterprise zones programme are self-reported by local areas on a quarterly basis.

    All efforts have been made to ensure the data’s accuracy and new collection arrangements are being implemented to improve the process.

    Data is provided by individual enterprise zones covering the period up to the 31 March 2015. View the breakdown of jobs and investment data nationally and by region.

    Read the press release about data on apprenticeship and trainees.

    Read the press release about the extension of the enterprise zones programme.

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  • Press release: New £3.2 million domestic abuse fund now open


    Local authorities will from today (24 August 2015) be able to bid for a share of a £3 million fund to support the victims of domestic abuse said Baroness Williams of Trafford.

    In the July Budget a £3 million fund for 2015 to 2016 was announced to address any gaps in the provision of specialist accommodation-based support, and provide support for victims seeking to access these services. The fund is now inviting bids for work in 2015 to 2016, led by local authorities working in partnership with service providers.

    Successful applicants must demonstrate how they will support innovative and cost effective proposals to deliver accommodation based services for victims of abuse, and for services to help them access such support. They should also set out how they will further the development of local strategies on tackling domestic abuse, and help create sustainable and long term approaches to supporting victims.

    Communities Minister Baroness Williams of Trafford who has been meeting with victims and those working in the sector said:

    Domestic violence and abuse is a devastating crime that shatters the lives of victims and families and this government is committed to ensuring that we have a strong safety net for anyone who finds themselves in a situation where they are forced to leave their home.

    Accommodation based services with specialist support play an essential role in the resolution of violence and conflict, ensuring that adult and child victims are afforded the safety and security they need.

    We recognise that not all victims will have the same needs and the fund will also be looking to support further innovative approaches to enable victims to access the support they need.

    The announcement in the July budget builds on the £10 million funding for refuges announced announced in March 2015 by the coalition government.

    Funds announced in the budget also include £131,000 for additional workers for UK Refuges Online. UK Refuges Online is a UK wide database of domestic violence services which enables those working with victims of domestic violence to identify appropriate services and potential refuge vacancies around the country so that victims can get the help they need as quickly as possible.

    The Summer Budget 2015 also announced a review of the full range of services currently available to victims of domestic abuse. Its findings will feed into the Spending Review and an updated violence against women and girls strategy to ensure that victims of domestic violence and their families have access to the support and services they need to keep safe.

    Further information

    For more information and details of how to apply for funding see the prospectus.

    The deadline for bids is 1 October 2015.

    The Budget Statement announced a total additional funding of £3.2 million for victims of domestic abuse, made up of: £3.07 million for the Innovation Fund in 2015 to 2016 and £131,000 in 2015 to 2016 for additional workers for the UK Refuges Online.

    As well as the additional funding, domestic abuse is a major priority for the government’s Troubled Families programme. The focus on tackling domestic violence and abuse has been increased in the new expanded Troubled Families programme.

    Last year the coalition government announced a new £10 million government fund to help support refuges across the country and boost provision for vulnerable victims of domestic violence.

    This built on steps taken by the government to end domestic violence, support victims and ensure offenders are prosecuted. These include:

    • £40 million for Violence Against Women and Girls support services and specialist helplines
    • new laws and powers - including a new domestic abuse offence to capture coercive and controlling behaviour, the criminalisation of forced marriage, and the introduction of new stalking laws
    • the national roll-out of domestic violence protection orders and the domestic violence disclosure scheme

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  • Press release: Coastal Communities Fund promotes over 10,000 jobs, training places and apprenticeships


    • fund secures jobs, prosperity and opportunities for young people
    • regenerating seaside towns to attract visitors and become year-round success stories
    • unlocking the economic potential of seaside towns remains priority for government

    Job prospects are brightening for Britain’s seaside communities as the number of jobs, apprenticeships and training places has passed the 10,000 milestone thanks to the Coastal Communities Fund, Coastal Communities Minister Mark Francois announces today (22 August 2015).

    New figures show over 10,000 working opportunities have been delivered as local people drive forward their plans for seaside regeneration supported by the government’s Coastal Communities Fund.

    The latest figures show there have been almost 3,000 jobs created, 860 sustained and 6,800 new training places and apprenticeships across the UK.

    Over the past 3 years, the government has invested some £120 million in projects across the UK to help seaside communities unlock their economic potential, create business opportunities and ensure their long-term future.

    The projects are also expected to attract more than £213 million in private sector investment.

    Mr Francois this week saw how the Coastal Communities Fund has transformed the seaside town of Bognor Regis when he opened the reinvigorated town centre which has already boosted visitor numbers and the local economy.

    This is the first part of a wider regeneration for the area which has a new dedicated Coastal Community Team to develop a long term strategy.

    The minister said:

    Few things beat a day at the seaside which is why our Coastal Communities Fund is investing millions in regenerating cherished seaside towns so they can be year-round success stories.

    Our One Nation government is determined to kick-start local economic growth, build infrastructure and create the business opportunities so seaside towns can thrive.

    We are now seeing coastal towns pick up pace; create thousands of jobs, apprentices and training places which is great news for the community and economy.

    Statistics from VisitEngland show a rise in the numbers of holiday trips being taken in the UK for the first quarter of the year – the highest number in almost a decade. Visits were up 18% on 2014 in England.

    The Coastal Communities Fund gives residents, councils and local businesses the chance to bid for funding to take forward their vision for improving their seaside town.

    The Budget announced the fund will be extended for another 5 years with a pot of £90 million which will give communities another chance to bid for funding.

    The government also recently announced the creation of 116 coastal community teams which encourages local businesses, local leaders and volunteers to create a long-term strategy for their area.

    Applications are also open for communities to bid for a new £3 million Coastal Revival Fund to support or restore local heritage and facilities which benefits the wider community and surrounding economy.

    Further information

    Launched in 2012, the Coastal Communities Fund has already invested £120 million on 222 projects local infrastructure and economic projects across the UK.

    New Coastal Communities Fund figures show that up to 31 March 2015 there have been:

      England UK
    Direct & indirect jobs created 2,600 2,904
    Jobs safeguarded 219 864
    Training places & apprenticeships 5,309 6,805
    Total 8,128 10,573

    19 of the 39 Local Enterprise Partnerships are in coastal areas and as part of the government’s growth deals, more than £700 million has been committed to projects in these areas to improve transport infrastructure, broadband connectivity, improving flood defences and improving opportunities for local people.

    8 out of the 24 enterprise zones are in coastal areas which offer incentives for businesses to start up or expand including Business Rates relief, superfast broadband and simplified planning – with a further 2 prospective coastal enterprise zones in Blackpool and Plymouth announced in the March 2015 Budget.

    The Coastal Communities Fund is financed by the government through the funding equivalent of 50% of the revenues earned from the Crown Estate’s marine activities in England and the devolved administrations.

    Details of future bidding for the Coastal Communities Fund will be announced later this year.

    Case studies

    National Coastal Tourism Academy, Bournemouth, £2 million

    In 2012, this project received £2 million to create Europe’s first National Coastal Tourism Academy. The Academy delivers training support to coastal tourism businesses through virtual and personal business guidance and on-line resources, coastal tourism research and development.

    It has also created a new attraction – a coastal activity park – in Bournemouth, and delivered a visitor experience programme which includes events in and around Bournemouth.

    To date the project has created 10 direct jobs and its support for 218 businesses to date is expected to deliver over 150 additional jobs.

    Nearly 100 vocational trainees and over 2,000 non vocational trainees have benefitted from training provided by the project.

    Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership: coastal business modernisation

    The project received a £200,000 grant from the Coastal Communities Fund in 2013 to support a programme of coastal business modernisation along the coastal strip of north east Lincolnshire and Lincolnshire.

    It has helped 98 coastal businesses to date, each receiving 12 hours of business support, compared to an initial target of 60. Most businesses are linked to tourism, including hotels, catering firms and kiosks.

    National Lobster Hatchery, Padstow, Cornwall, £150,000

    In 2012, this project received funding to enhance its stock of commercial species of European lobsters and undertake research and education programmes.

    It also runs a visitor centre on Padstow quayside which promotes the importance of sustainability and responsible marine management.

    Since receiving the grant, the Lobster Hatchery has attracted an additional 3,500 visitors taking total visitor numbers to over 8,000 a year.

    It also created 5 direct jobs and boosted employment within the local area with an increase in tourism expenditure creating over 16 indirect jobs.

    Thanet district council, Margate, Kent

    Thanet council was awarded a £1.9 million in Coastal Communities Fund Round 3 grant to bring back into economic use an iconic but derelict art deco cinema within the Dreamland site in Margate.

    The project will attract new visitors to the area, supporting local businesses and creating jobs.

    Blackpool city council: ‘Lightpool’ project

    The project has received a £2 million Coastal Communities Fund Round 3 grant to deliver a radical transformation of the iconic Blackpool Illuminations, creating a compelling new visitor experience and a major boost to the local economy.

    The project includes innovative enhancements to the Blackpool Illuminations including new light shows; digital mapping projections; events and features across the town centre; new digital and lighting features and signage.

    Youth Hostel Association (Brighton and Robin Hoods Bay)

    In 2014, the Youth Hostel Association was awarded £550,000 from the Coastal Communities Fund for 2 facilities, one new build in a Grade II listed building in Brighton and the other a redevelopment of an existing youth hostel in Robin Hoods Bay on the north Yorkshire coast.

    Brighton was opened to guests in November 2014 and Robin Hoods Bay (Boggle Hole) in April 2015.

    The projects will not only deliver new and improved holiday accommodation in these popular coastal locations, boosting tourism numbers and improving the visitor experience, but also create full and part time employment within the hostels and contribute to local economic growth.

    So far 36 jobs have been directly created within the hostels which has welcomed over 50,000 visitors. These visitors have spent £1.8 million contributing to an estimated 46 indirect jobs to the local economy.

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  • Press release: Honour for Trooper Potts marks 1 year of VC paving stone ceremonies


    Over the past year communities across the United Kingdom have been honouring local First World War heroes at Victoria Cross paving stone ceremonies, 100 years to the day they were awarded Britain’s highest military honour.

    The commemorative stones - laid in the servicemen’s place of birth or where they lived following the war - provide a lasting legacy to their ‘most conspicuous bravery’. They also enable residents to gain a greater understanding of how their area and people of all backgrounds contributed to the history of the First World War.

    One hundred years ago today Trooper Fred Potts VC, the ‘Hero with the Shovel’, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his exceptional courage at Gallipoli. The 22 year-old private saved Arthur Andrews a fellow member of the Berkshire Yeomanry.

    His citation read:

    On 21 August 1915 in the attack on Hill 70, Potts (although wounded in the thigh) remained for over 48 hours under the Turkish trenches with another private from his regiment who was severely wounded, and unable to move. He finally fixed a shovel to the equipment of his wounded comrade and using this as a sledge, dragged the man back over 600 yards to safety, being under fire all the way.

    Fred Potts shaking hands with his Enniskillin Fusilier rescuer.
    Fred Potts (right) shaking hands with his Enniskillin Fusilier rescuer.

    Speaking ahead of today’s commemorative ceremony in Reading, Berkshire, Communities Minister Baroness Williams of Trafford said:

    Over this past year local people have come together to honour and find out more about the men who fought and died for this country.

    The stone laid today in honour of Frederick Owen Potts provides a lasting legacy to his bravery and will enable Reading residents to gain a greater understanding of how a local hero played a key role in the history of the First World War.

    People of all backgrounds and faiths were recipients of the Victoria Cross all of whom carried out astonishing acts of valour in service of Britain. We all owe a huge debt to those brave heroes like Trooper Potts who served this country with such distinction.

    Robert Binham, grandson of Fred Potts, said:

    The commemorative VC paving stone to Trooper Potts VC will be unveiled at 5pm on 21 August, the centenary of the time orders to attack Scimitar Hill, Gallipoli were given and the centenary of the deed for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

    Anne Ames, granddaughter of Fred Potts, said:

    The Potts’ family are extremely proud that a local man has been so honoured.

    Over a 4 year period, 469 stones are being laid in communities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Thirty-five VC recipients are also being commemorated in the Republic of Ireland, with the first recipient Maurice Dease VC recognised at a ceremony in Dublin in August 2014.

    Britain did not stand alone and the war effort was made up of people from every corner of the globe. The Prime Minister also paid tribute to the 145 servicemen born overseas, across 19 different countries, with the establishment of a permanent memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum.

    The ceremony to commemorate overseas-born Victoria cross recipients at the National Memorial Arboretum in March 2015.
    The ceremony to commemorate overseas-born Victoria cross recipients at the National Memorial Arboretum in March 2015.

    Further information

    To find out more about the life of Trooper Potts work, see the Trooper Potts Memorial Trust website, Facebook page or Twitter.

    See the dates of upcoming paving stone laying ceremonies.

    Follow the laying of the commemorative stones on Twitter, #VCpavingstones.

    See details of commemorative events to mark 100 years since Britain entered the First World War.

    A public competition was held to choose a design for the paving stones and this was judged by a panel of 7 experts. The competition was won by Charlie MacKeith from London whose winning design will feature on all the paving stones that will be laid in communities across the country. The circular design seeks to ‘make one pause and remember’ and uses the material, form and lettering of the family of memorials used by the War Graves Commission.

    The paving stones are made of Scoutmoor Yorkstone a hard-wearing British stone that is quarried near Ramsbottom. Each stone will include the name of the individual, the rank and regiment of the individual (at the time the VC was awarded) and the date of the action for which the VC was awarded.

    The decision about the site of each stone has been taken by the relevant local authority. Guidelines to local authorities encouraged them to site the stones in a location that would have had resonance with the VC recipient, such as outside a house that they lived in or near their old school. Most importantly, the stones should be part of the community and sited in a position where they will be visible to members of the public.

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  • Press release: Fire deaths fall to lowest number on record


    New figures released today (20 August 2015) show that fire deaths in England have continued to fall, with 6% fewer deaths than last year.

    This continues a trend that has seen a drop of almost a third (30%) in the last decade. There is also a similar reduction in the number of people injured in fires, which has fallen to less than half the number of casualties in 2004.

    This a testament to the success of fire safety campaigns and the hard work done by fire and rescue authorities around the country, and others, to increase awareness of fire safety and prevent fires from breaking out in the first place.

    The figures also show that last year, fire and rescue services attended 154,700 fires, the second lowest number of fire incidents ever recorded.

    Commenting on the figures, Fire Minister Mark Francois said:

    People are safer than ever before, with deaths from fires in the home at record lows - thanks to the combined efforts of households, fire and rescue authorities, the government and business.

    It is great news this downward trend in fire fatalities and casualties is continuing but we must not be complacent because one death is a death too many, therefore I urge people to remain vigilant about fire safety and prevention.

    The best way to protect a household from a fire is to install at least one working smoke alarm on every level of your home and then to test these monthly.

    The fire statistics monitor is published annually and the figures for April 2014 to March 2015 are now available on the website.

    Further information

    Fire Kills is the award-winning national advertising campaign planned, developed and delivered in close partnership by the Department for Communities and Local Government and the fire and rescue authorities in England. The campaign promotes essential fire safety messages, encouraging fire safe behaviour, to drive down the number of fire-related deaths and injuries in the home. It has a primary message to promote the regular testing of smoke alarms.

    Regular research, insight and evaluation have enabled the campaign to become smarter and better targeted so that it continues to be effective in delivering fire safety messages.

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  • Press release: Delivering homes for hardworking people


    Housing Minister Brandon Lewis today (20 August 2015) welcomed new figures showing a rise in the number of homes being delivered as proof that the government is keeping the country building and delivering the homes that hard-working people need.

    The latest housebuilding figures show that there were over 131,000 completions in the last 12 months, 15% higher than in the previous 12 months and at their highest annual total since June 2009.

    Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said:

    Our One Nation government has got the country building again with today’s figures showing that 131,060 extra homes have been built in the past year. This has provided a real boost to the UK’s construction industry and is delivering the homes that hard-working people rightly deserve.

    However, we know there is more to do. That is why we have outlined plans to deliver 275,000 affordable homes by the end of this Parliament – the fastest rate of building for 20 years.

    We’re also determined to support those who aspire to own their own home, which is why we’re making up to £10 million available to bring forward brownfield sites to build new Starter Homes which will be available to young first-time buyers at a 20% discount.

    Housebuilding is at the heart of the government’s long-term economic plan.

    Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics have shown that output in the construction industry increased by 2.7% in June compared to the same month last year. Work on private new housing between April and June rose by nearly 3.9% on the previous quarter.

    The government has also given local people the powers they need to drive forward housing development with the number of homes in locally led plans up by a quarter.

    Before March 2012 the average number of homes planned for by local authorities stood at 573 per year. But radical reforms put Local Plans and housing delivery at the heart of the planning system.

    This has helped expand the housing pipeline with those Local Plans published after the reforms containing on average 717 homes per year.

    The government is also helping hard-working people achieve their dream of home ownership with more than 200,000 households helped to buy property through government-backed schemes since 2010.

    Further information

    Read the full statistical report.

    Below are the local authorities with the highest change in completion levels:

    • Southampton, completions increased by 166% from 495 in the year to June 2014 to 1,316 in the year to June 2015
    • Southwark, completions increased by 178% from 439 in the year to June 2014 to 1,219 in the year to June 2015
    • Northumberland, completions increased by 125% from 552 in the year to June 2014 to 1,244 in the year to June 2015
    • Manchester, completions increased by 138% from 415 in the year to June 2014 to 986 in the year to June 2015
    • Sunderland, completions increased by 111% from 478 in the year to June 2014 to 1,010 in the year to June 2015

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