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Localism Bill: homeowners to grant own permissions


The much-anticipated Localism Bill could give homeowners the right to build extensions and add storeys without planning permission

Expected to be unveiled within the bill by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles on Thursday (9 December), the proposals are part of a new planning rules will give neighbourhoods more influence over the kind of developments they want in their areas, according to reports at the weekend.

The changes would hand some of the planning responsibilities currently exercised by councils over to new officially-recognised neighbourhood groups in a bid to cut back on red tape.

This could result in homeowners being given the freedom to build new extensions, add floors or a conservatory to their homes or install driveways without the usual permissions.

Residents would also gain the power to approve or reject proposals for new housing developments, schools and other public buildings in their areas - with incentives for communities which agree to new homes being built.

The Bill is expected to allow groups of householders to apply to be recognised as ‘neighbourhoods’, covering a group of streets or larger areas. There would be a presumption that local authorities will approve the status.

Officially established neighbourhoods could then prepare ‘neighbourhood plans’ which would be put to referendums. If approved, the plans would have to be accepted by the council.

The groups would also be allowed to draw up categories of development which could be carried out without planning permission - such as extensions or loft conversions.

Communities minister Greg Clark, told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘This Government has ambitious proposals to make the system fit to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Above all, we want to change the philosophy behind local planning.

‘We want to move away from a system with significant elements of imposition from above, to one with participation and involvement at its heart - not just warm words, or a commitment in principle, but real opportunities for people to have a say.

‘We also want to move away from a system that seeks to resolve the different needs of different groups at a local level by imposing choices from above, towards one which enables a mature debate at local level.’

The paper also reported that the bill will pave the way for elected mayors in 12 cities: Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Nottingham, Sheffield and Wakefield.

Meanwhile Pickles has announced plans to grant London Boroughs greater control over major local planning decisions in the future.

The minister said the reforms, which are again due to be set out in the Localism Bill, will pave the way for further devolution for London Boroughs to ‘make sure decisions reflect local priorities including more decisions on planning being put into the hands of locally-elected London leaders’.

Pickles also confirmed the devolution of executive powers over housing investment from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to the Greater London Authority (GLA).

He also announced the abolition of the London Development Agency (LDA), with its city-wide roles on regeneration and management of European funding also transferred to the GLA.

Under the proposals, the mayor of London will only consider the ‘largest planning applications in future’and will inherit new powers to create mayoral development corporations to ‘focus regeneration where it’s needed most’.

The Government’s decision to devolve power in local planning was welcomed by London Councils chair mayor Jules Pipe.

She said: ‘London’s boroughs will be pleased that the government has listened to their calls that the power to make crucial decisions should be devolved from quangos and central government to boroughs and the mayor’


Readers' comments (2)

  • The idea of local groups being able to decide on development give me the shivers. It just allows all the Nimby's to prevent sensible modern development. I know what its like to live within an area with a strong residents association with 90% of the reactions to planning applications are blinkerred and negative.

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  • John Kellett

    The other side of the argument is of course that groups of householders will grant themselves permission for very large ugly extensions. I can also imagine a group of agricultural landowners making a tidy profit out of redefining their own land as 'development land'. It will be interesting to see how a 'neighbourhood community' is defined!
    From what we know at the moment it doesn't look as if the idea / policy has been thought through fully.
    Why not just fast-track applications that meet policy and/or are by 'approved agents' (ARB/RIBA, CIAT RICS etc) to allow planners to concentrate on the badly presented / non-conforming to policy applications?
    Just a thought.

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