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Localism Bill and planning reforms
Posted: 13 December 2010 02:21 PM   [ Ignore ]
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The Localism Bill has been published with major changes to the planning system and a series of new community rights among other things.  We will be providing a range of briefings and keep an eye out on the website and our Planning for people campaign page http://www.civicvoice.org.uk/campaigns/planning-for-people

We want to know what you think of the new provisions and how we can make them work better for civic societies.  The new neighbourhood planning rights in particular present new opportunities for civic societies to take a stronger lead on planning policy and new development.

We welcome comments on any aspect of the Localism Bill and are particularly interested in your views on:

1.  The proposed new neighbourhood plans and how these can be improved?
2.  The effect of introducing neighbourhood development orders through which planning permission is granted via the neighbourhood plan?
3.  What practical support by way of facilitation or independent advice would be most helpful to civic societies in taking a lead in preparing a neighbourhood plan or working with a parish or town council?
4.  What other changes to the planning system would help give communities more power or provide extra safeguards (e.g. enforcement, community rights of appeal)?
5.  The new “community right to buy” which provides powers to list important community assets to be identified in advance and gives community groups the opportunity to put together a bid to take them on if they are put on the market?

Tell everyone what you think here and provoke the discussion.

 
 
Posted: 14 December 2010 09:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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In principle the proposals are a very welcome change bringing responsibility to local communities for their own destiny but I feel uneasy about the lack of independent/professional guidance being offered to local groups. The bill does suggest that large developers could act in that role but these developers will have a vested interest in directing a community along a certain route which may not be good for the overall area.

I would like to see greater use of the existing planning departments and locally based professionals (forming informal advisory groups) to ‘educate and guide community groups so that they do not get hijacked or seduced by an idea that is inappropriate or only builds problems for the future.

 
 
Posted: 14 December 2010 03:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I am a little worried that the new localism bill allows neighbourhood plans to override the protections for listed buildings and conservation areas. I haven’t had time to fully assess the implications but it does appear to leave a gap in the protection of these areas. I would be worried therefore, if an applicant uses financial incentives (e.g. new school etc.) to override the need to preserve or enhance the aesthetic or historic importance of the area.

 
 
Posted: 21 December 2010 01:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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The Government has announced how it intends to review the current suite of national planning policies and consolidate them into a single document - the national planning policy framework.  Views are being invited on the priorities in the current policies before consultation on a draft framework in 2011.  There is more information here http://www.communities.gov.uk/news/corporate/1804403

It would be very helpful to Civic Voice to have details of the existing areas of planning policy which you would wish to see retained and why.  These might include:

    Town centre first for retail

    Brownfield first for housing

    Green Belt

    Presumption in favour of conserving designated heritage assets

    Promote local distinctiveness

    Reduce need to travel

    Plan positively for high quality design

    Promote higher density & mixed use

or something else. 

Let us know by the end of January.

 
 
Posted: 10 January 2011 11:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Posted on behalf of Margaret Edwards, Littleborough Civic Trust

The bill makes frequent use of the terms ‘neighbourhood’ and ‘community’ but does not define these. Is it intended that these will be synonymous with local authority boundaries - parish, ward etc?
I would appreciate some clarification,
Margaret Edwards
Acting Secretary Littleborough Civic Trust

 
 
Posted: 10 January 2011 11:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Posted on behalf of David Way, Vale of Evesham Civic Society

A big issue as far as Vale of Evesham Civic Society is concerned it the Right of Appeal. There really should be legislation that curbs the behaviour of some of the big organisations who can spend thousands appealing against a local council decision. If a local authority lose a decision, they know they will be faced with the full cost - and businesses know this. Could the situation go the other way and “if an organisation makes an appeal” they must be prepared to pay all costs win or lose.

David Way
Vale of Evesham Civic Society

 
 
Posted: 10 January 2011 11:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Quite a simple question

Do the Government really believe the expertise exists within communities to allow them to develop the Big Society Agenda at a time when they have cut EH’s budget, axed CABE and abolished Planning Aid.I have never used Planning Aid but they do seem well placed to give communities the support they need.

 
 
Posted: 10 January 2011 11:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Posted on behalf of Colin Gray, Fleet & Church Crookham Society

A problem we have faced in local planning application decisions is the perceived restrictions on uses of Section 106 contributions for leisure and recreation.  A point I have tried to make is that any new housing development will put additional demands on existing facilities district wide as well as, in some circumstances, requiring new facilities applicable to the new development.

For example, there is an application for 872 houses on a disused Gurkha barracks site in Church Crookham.  That will obviously require new facilities for residents of that large new community.    Such a large development will also place more demands on existing facilities and an element of flexibility is needed.

An application to demolish 2 bungalows with large gardens and replace with 14 houses in a predominantly residential area will impact on existing facilities throughout the area.  It would be wrong in my estimation to restrict S106 contribution to a specific amenity.  There should be more flexibility permitted in the uses of S106 and it should not be necessary to prove that one resource is more in need than another.

Another cause for debate with our local authority is on the S106 leisure contributions from commercial development.  Our LA has always maintained that S106 leisure cannot be claimed from commercial developments.  I obtained a letter from the Sec of State however stating that there is no reason why such contributions should not be sought.  This needs to be clarified.

Colin Gray
Chairman Fleet & Church Crookham Society

 
 
Posted: 10 January 2011 11:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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What is to happen to the PPGs under the new Localism Bill. Are they to be scrapped or form a sud section of the new National Policy Guidence proposed in the Bill.

 
 
Posted: 10 January 2011 02:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Posted on behalf of Derek Cooper, Buntingford Civic Society

Buntingford is a target for developers and the Civic Society is resisting applications which are not consistent with the EHDC core strategy vision for the Town in the LDF consultation.
A question for tomorrow is why, when planning officers impose conditions, developers simply ignore them and there is no comeback ? We have a particular example in the Town with a development approved at an inappropriate increased density with a major negative impact on long established residents. It appears that officers and councillors are able to be subjective or objective or vice versa as it suits them - not very professional!
Keep up the good work,

Derek Cooper
Buntingford Civic Society

 
 
Posted: 11 January 2011 10:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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‘A proper link between taxation, representation and expenditure at local level is not an optional extra: it is the foundation of meaningful localism. Grant it, and much follows; deny it, and little changes.’ Daniel Hannan MEP

We are not getting anything approaching the above and we already have localism enshrined in PPG1:

‘Plans should be drawn up with community involvement and present a shared vision and strategy of how the area should develop to achieve more sustainable patterns of development.’

Is all this ‘Much Ado about Nothing’ ?

Civic Voice has done well to extract some benefits, but should concern be expressed about factional (neighbourhood) interests being able to override planning procedures?

Although the (illegal) abolition of top-down regional planning is popular, how can bottom-up localism produce regional policy, so that we have some input about infrastructure at the sub national level?

Tony, what is the greatest additional benefit to amenity societies of this legislation?

Peter York
Committee Member
Kent Federation of Amenity Societies

 
 
Posted: 11 January 2011 10:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Posted on behalf of Henry Warne, North East Federation of Civic Societies
I cannot pretend that I have a firm grasp of every detail of this Bill . However I can say that I broadly support the points you set out in your draft briefing note to MP’s .

What concerns me is that we will yet again find ourselves in world bereft of guiding policies for some time . Time and again we find the planning system lurching this way and that – leaving the last ‘reform’ half completed before we move on to yet another change in the system .

However I recognise and accept that any incoming government is quite entitled to change planning policies and law . However it would help greatly if the changes were managed in such way that functioning of the system suffers as little as possible .

Furthermore the government should take account of the current realities on the ground . Planning departments in this region have had their staff reduced and further such cuts are anticipated . The policy planners should be getting on with preparing ldfs but we see target dates being repeatedly not met – it all speaks of system that is operating at near breaking point . The development control system also struggles to keep up with its work . As I have indicated , things are likely to get worse before they get better. I suspect that this picture may well be repeated across the country .

Whatever one might think about Regional Spatial Strategies , they are in this region , in place – as from 2008. They do contain a wide range of worthwhile policies to underpin development control decisions . They set out practical objectives and targets to promote many important issues such as renewable energy , economic development sites , targets for the number of houses to built in each section of the region . These are up to date policies – the Strategy is just two and half years old . 

Will the new system rapidly step in to take the place of what is being lost ? There have to be grave doubts about this for the reasons set out above .

The government does seem determined to formally abolish the regional strategies as soon as they can . There is a strong aroma fixed ambitions of being at work here

Thus I recognise that asking for a transitional strategy to retain all or most of what we have until alternative provision arrives by way of local development strategies is unlikely to find favour .  Thus however should not deter us from proposing such strategy . The alternative is likely to be a local policy famine for many years leaving the planning system operating often on an ad hoc basis .

What is the new government going to do about serious issues that have not been effectively addressed over many years ?  The provision of housing springs to mind . The nation has not been building enough houses for many years . The provision of affordable housing has been pitiful . There is a great need for ‘ordinary’ housing provision to become affordable .

The welcoming of ‘localism’  is all well and good but it is unlikely to address major issues such as the nation having enough homes . Will Civic Voice take this up as an issue ?

                                  Regards
                                Henry Warne
                                  Chairman

11th January 2011

 
 
Posted: 11 January 2011 11:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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First, an apology - the internet has crashed here so I am contributing on a Blackberry and learn how to type with thumbs very quickly.

We have had a lot of interest in the Localism Bill so far and some really important points have been made. I can try and pick up the posts so far below and do look at the key issue identified in the first post above. Civic Voice is well placed to infleunce the Bill but we can only do it with your knowledge and examples

Matthew is right to be worried about the potential impact of the new neigh ourhood development orders on conservation areas and listed buildings in planning terms. We are talking to English Heritage about this and have already asked the Minister in person to remove the offending section

Defining a neighbourhood is always going to be a tricky job as Margaret notes - the Bill asks that local authorities agree the boundary in case of dispute and to avoid overlaps.

David flags the need to curb appeal rights and the worry of costs. We agree and so, it appears, does the Minister who envisages no applications for development conflicting with plans being permitted let alone appeals!  Unfortunately the Bill doesn’t say this yet!  And we are pressing for the community to have appeal rights as well as developers.

There was an earlier post explaining what is happening to PPSs and inviting views. John might also want to vote in the poll on our website home page

Henry flags the tricky issue of transition and the risk of a policy vacuum. This is a serious concern and makes it all the more important we get a good national planning policy frameowrk in place, albeit shorter than the current one.

Civic Voice’s main lobbying focus is on ensuring community groups have the resources and support to take advantage of the provisions in the Bill. hw is spot on inflagging this one and we are looking at the new #3m fund being set up to fund support to communities and the role Civic Voice might play.

There are no changes to section 106 agreements (planning gain) but we are pressing as Colin suggest for an approach based more on community need and the new Community Infrastructure Levy will now require a “meaningful proprtion” to go to communities.

The Bill does include welcome measures on enforcement but perhaps not goin as far as Derek wants - we do think it essential that councils don’t relegate enforcement to being a “nice to do” activity

Which brings us to Peter’s request about the most important additional benefit of the Bill. It could be the new package of rights which will help communities even where they have difficult local councils. But perhaps the most important is that it is changing the way people think about communities - planners, councils and others are slowly beginning to realise the potential of the knowledge and skills they posses and “letting go”. We need to seize the moment and make this a watershed moment when communties come forward to shape their area as they see fit. We can’t be starry eyed about all this - it won’t be easy and of course there will be conflicts but we can enter into the new opportunities positively and bring changes which will benefit us all. Nobody is better aced than the civic movement to do this.

 
 
Posted: 11 January 2011 12:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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We are worried
(1) that the Bill will be a charter for Nimbyism, delaying development, and the process will be short-lived because development pressures will mount and eventually be irresistible.
(2) that the planning capability of Councils is already less than is needed - and will be hopelessly stretched by neighbourhoods trying to take control; there is already a shortage of suitable people to be good councillors, the bill will not suddenly increase the supply of able community leaders.
(3) that the end result will be developers, whose financial interest makes them very much better equipped than communiites will ever be, just bulldozing through.
JM

 
 
Posted: 11 January 2011 12:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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There are great concerns that much time and effort will be required to produce Neighbourhood Plans. Those of working age will be excluded because of this, which will make it less democratic.

 
 
Posted: 11 January 2011 12:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Neighbourhood plans certainly won’t happen overnight and they will need support to bring them about. Equally, there are a fair few underway and with the right approach they can involve everyone. Communities have been asking for more of a say so hpefully now that the Bill is going to provide it they will want to take up the opportunity

 
 
   
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