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Government unveils Localism Bill

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The government has unveiled some of the finer details of its Big Society-oriented Decentralisation and Localism Bill, while failing to shed light on its proposed reform of the planning system

Claimed to deliver the most comprehensive overhaul of the planning system since 1947, the bill features policies designed to boost grass roots involvement in new developments.

While the RIBA has welcomed the bill, many feel the construction industry has been left in the dark with the all important detail on the creation of a national planning framework yet to be disclosed.

A proposal on how to replace the existing PPS planning rules with a new system rooted in a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ is expected to be unveiled early next year.

It’s understood the definition of the presumption will include an emphasis on quality design.

Ruth Reed, RIBA president, said: ‘The Localism Bill will spark a profound shift in the way England is governed and presents real challenges for all those involved in designing and planning new development.

‘Localism could be a powerful means of engaging local communities more positively in the development process, but this will be unchartered territory and it will require a real commitment from councils and professions, including architects, to make it work across the country.

‘To genuinely empower local people and give real teeth to localism, it will be essential that local communities are provided with the tools and support that are necessary to deliver.

‘Whilst we see architects playing a key role in the neighbourhood planning process and would urge our members to get involved, the onus will be on local government to ensure that the new system is properly resourced and that communities have access to the right expertise. Given the local government budget cuts announced yesterday, we are very concerned that this might not happen.’


Presented to parliament yesterday (13 December) the key policies are:

Neighbourhood plans: Local people will be given the right to formulate a ‘neighbourhood plan’ and to specify what kind of building they want in their area. Any proposals which meet the requirements of the neighbourhood plan and local plan can proceed without planning permission.

New Home Bonus: Central government will reward local authorities for allowing new developments with cashback on the new properties’ council tax.

Regional strategies: Regional spatial strategies will be formally abolished.

Community Right to Challenge: Communities will gain the right to take over local services.  

Community Right to Buy: Communities will be given the right to bid and raise capital to buy listed private or public assets which are of community value.

Community Infrastructure Levy: A levy on new developments will be ploughed back into the neighbourhood where the project is taking place, allowing ‘those most directly affected by development to benefit from it’. Budgets of this sort are planned to be available everywhere by 2013.

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