UK: Planning Act Blog 181: Local Growth White Paper - Counties to Lose Planning Functions?

Last Updated: 1 November 2010
Article by Angus Walker

This is entry number 181, first published on 29 October 2010, of a blog on the implementation of the Planning Act 2008. Click here for a link to the whole blog. If you would like to be notified when the blog is updated, with links sent by email, click here.

Today's entry reports and analyses yesterday's Local Growth White Paper.

Yesterday the government published a white paper on 'local growth'. It can be found here. It is a publication by Vince Cable's department (Business, Innovation and Skills), with a foreword by Nick Clegg, so something of a Lib Dem production.

Many planning and investment powers are to be devolved downwards, but some appear to be being centralised.

Local enterprise partnerships

The government had previously invited bids from groups of local authorities and other local organisations to form 'local enterprise partnerships' (LEPs) to fill the gap left by the proposed abolition of Regional Development Agencies. I thought 56 bids had been made, although the white paper says 62. In any event, 24 of these have been given the green light. Here is a map of which parts of the country are covered by one (and sometimes two) LEPs.

LEPs won't get any government money, but they will take on many of the roles of the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), which are to be wound down by March 2012. Annex B to the white paper sets out how the roles currently performed by RDAs will be transferred - many going to LEPs but some returning to the government.

The white paper gives more details about the Regional Growth Fund, heralded in the budget, last week's comprehensive spending review and this week's national infrastructure plan. The fund is now open for bids until 21 January 2011, but you have to bid for at least £1million. Guidance and an application form can be found on the BIS website.


When it comes to planning, there is to be a tier of development planning below the local development plan - the neighbourhood plan. It is not clear yet how a neighbourhood is defined, but it will have some plan-making powers. Plan-making by local authorities is to be simplified, something that will be universally welcomed if that's what really happens - the previous changes were supposed to make a more flexible and responsive system.

Although local communities have a 'desire to see new homes', the government is introducing a New Homes Bonus to incentivise local authorities to buiid new homes by matching council tax receipts from them for six years. There will also be business incentives where councils can keep business rates in some circumstances (instead of them going into a national pool, as at present), such as when renewable energy schemes are built in their areas.

Hidden away in the white paper it appears to say that minerals and waste planning will be taken from county councils (their only current planning functions) and given to the body that is replacing the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) - the Major Infrastructure Planning Unit (MIPU), to be part of the Planning Inspectorate. That would be surprising and may not be what is meant, but here is the text of paragraph 3.23:

"[The fact that some decisions need to be taken at national level] is why, for example, nationally important infrastructure projects (such as large scale wind farms and power plants), the supply of aggregate minerals and planning for waste will become the responsibility of the Planning Inspectorate's recently announced Major Infrastructure Planning Unit."

[Stop press: the government have announced that this is a 'drafting error' and there is no intention to transfer waste and minerals planning functions to MIPU. A correction to the white paper will be issued next week. I am now guilty of the Grazia technique of drawing in readers with a headline in the form of a question, to which the answer is in fact 'no'.]

The Localism Bill will contain a statutory duty on local authorities and infrastructure providers to co-operate with each other, and the philosophy of pre-application consultation in the Planning Act will be extended to all large-scale developments. The Bill will also 'fold' the London Development Agency (LDA) into the Greater London Authority (GLA). The abolition of RDAs, however, is in the Public Bodies Bill, published this morning, and the creation of LEPs will not require legislation at all.

Unspecified legislation will be needed to set up Tax Increment Financing (TIF), and there is a mini-consultation on this subject tucked away on page 33 of the white paper, ending on 1 December.

A statutory presumption that all planning applications for sustainable development will be granted (presumably instead of the current presumption in favour of applications that accord with the development plan) is to be introduced.

Previous entry 180: National Infrastructure Plan published

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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