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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

As well as abolishing regional strategies and housing targets, the act paves the way for a major shift in power from central government to local communities and introduces a ‘procedurally complex’ new neighbourhood planning process.

The new Act also sets out provisions for the creation of new mayoral Development Corporations in London as well as powers to elect mayors in 12 other cities.

Kate Henderson, chief executive of the Town and Country Planning Association said:
‘The effectiveness and fairness of the new regime will depend not just on the extensive legislation set out in the Localism Act, but also on a wider package of changes.  These include the introduction of the New Homes Bonus, designed to incentivise housing growth, changes to Housing Benefit and a new National Planning Policy Framework, which will contain the key national policy direction for planning.’

‘Now is the time for local authorities to seize the devolved powers in the Localism Act for the benefit of the communities they represent. The challenge will be to find the most effective balance between strategic housing policy and an emphasis on the localism approach; the balance between traditional land use regulation and fiscal incentives; and the degree to which, taken as whole, the reforms provide for a socially progressive framework which will ensure access to high-quality homes and communities.’

Richard Summers, RTPI President, said:
‘We congratulate Ministers on improving the Localism Bill and listening to some of our suggestions and we appreciate the constructive way they have engaged with us on some of our concerns.  But the real test of the Localism Act will be its implementation and the resources made available to enable the planning system to deliver it.

The key issue will be to reduce the continuing uncertainty, cost and delay for the planning system and the development industry

‘Many issues still need to be clarified, some by legal challenge and others through guidance, but the key issue will be to reduce the continuing uncertainty, cost and delay for the planning system and the development industry.”

Rebecca Roberts-Hughes, policy manager, RIBA, said:
‘Architects have the necessary skills and expertise to make a real success of localism. Responding to the anticipated provisions in the Localism Act, the RIBA has already this month published two Guides to Localism for architects. These outline how the role of the architect can change under the new approach to planning and highlight the crucial role that they have to play in helping communities to understand the potential of their local built environment and prepare neighbourhood plans.

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