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Comment: What is the 'genuine spirit' of localism?

HOK’s Sherin Aminossehe tries to define what localism really means

George Henry Borrow, the Victorian, travel writer was the first to laud what he called, ‘the genuine spirit of localism’. Over a century later, a cosy term that was used to lovingly talk about rural communities in Ireland and the travelling gypsies that he was so fond of writing about, is being used by the coalition to spearhead a so-called revolution in the planning regime.

While waiting to greet local government minister Bob Neill last week for a dinner I had organised in the midst of the second reading of the bill, I was idly googling on my iPhone, contemplating what to write in this very blog, when I came across a story that talked about the staff at the DCLG greeting the PM during a recent visit with the chant of ‘localism, localism, localism’ (clearly big society wouldn’t have the same rabble rousing cache).

But what does it actually mean?

A chant for wannabe civil servant turned football fans? The opportunity to paint your wagon any colour you want? Take a brush and draw red tulips across it in a bid to stand out in your boringly conservative conservation area? Or is something that will genuinely be more fundamental than that and what will it mean for the industry?

As the bill winds its way through its readings and myriads of inevitable amendments until it finally enters into legislation, only time will tell what its true effects will be. However, one thing is for sure, its impact on architects will be a world a way from what a Victorian travel writer had in his mind during his restless walking tours along the length and breadth of the country.

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