UK: Planning Act Blog 206: Localism Bill - Summary Of Second Reading Debate

Last Updated: 20 January 2011
Article by Angus Walker

This is entry number 206, first published on 18 January 2011, of a blog on the Planning Act 2008 infrastructure planning and authorisation regime. 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 on yesterday's second reading debate on the Localism Bill.

Yesterday aftenoon and evening saw the Second Reading debate in the House of Commons on the Localism Bill, the first debate on the Bill since its introduction in Parliament in mid-December. The debate lasted for six hours, and duly ended with the Bill receiving its second reading. You can read the 50 or so pages of Hansard here, but if you don't have time, read on. First, though, note that Parliament is asking for written representations no the Bill - for more details see below.

The most controversial provisions appeared to be the community right to challenge/buy, having 'shadow mayors' in advance of referundums to elect actual mayors, and the provisions for social housing. Many MPs also said that localism was useless if communities did not have the means to exercise it (due to the cuts).

Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Local Government, opened the debate. He gave a high-level wide-ranging speech, (mis)quoting St Augustine and Clint Eastwood. I had suspected for a while that the Conservatives did not like the word 'regional' - when Simon Hughes MP mentioned it, Eric Pickles called it 'the R-word'.

On the general power of competence, Hazel Blears MP (formerly in Eric Pickles' job), compared it with the 'well-being' power already in existence where councils can do anything in the social, economic or environmental interests of their areas. She asked what new things councils would do that were not in such interests. Eric Pickles conceded that 'there is not much difference' with the new power, but councils mighe be less cautious in using it.

Much was said by Labour members of the 126 reserve powers in the Bill of the government to override the localism provisions, saying that this meant the Bill was centralising rather than localising (if I can coin that verb).

Caroline Flint MP, shadow Secretary of State, moved a motion (known as a 'reasoned amendment') that the Bill not be given a second reading for various reasons. The main reasons given were that the government still had powers in reserve over local government, and the community empowerment and neighbourhood planning parts of the Bill were 'put together hastily without adequate consultation'.

She said that the Bill was nothing more than a smokescreen for unprecedented cuts to local authorities, and the Secretary of State's veto over many powers meant it should be renamed the 'only if I say so' Bill. She made the point that appointing shadow mayors in advance of mayoral elections gave them an unfair advantage in the ensuing election. This was echoed by others.

Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, asked if localism meant bypassing local authorities or not - the government did not seem to be sure. He asked what would happen if housing and renewable energy targets were not met by the localism measures, and what would happen if local authorities did not co-operate, despite the Bill requiring them to do so (albeit only on sustainable development).

Nick Raynsford MP said that press reaction to the Bill was qualified. He said that many of the measures did not allow local authorities to do what they wanted (and so were not localism), e.g. outlawing 'bin taxes' and requiring referendums on high council tax rises.

Community rights to challenge and to buy

There was considerable discussion of the community right to challenge, where community groups and others are able to challenge the providers of services by or on behalf of local authorities, and the right to protect assets of community value and potentially buy them.

Charlie Elphicke asked if the right could be extended to national government assets (having the Port of Dover in mind). Eric Pickles said he would think about it.

Joan Walley MP was concerned that the community right to challenge would lead to companies like Capita and Serco taking over more local services rather than community groups. Although, unless extended by the government, only a community body can launch a challenge, there is at present nothing to stop any organisation from joining the subsequent procurement process if there is one.

Hazel Blears asked that Eric Pickles state that he would not extend the bodies who could launch challenges. In reply Greg Clark said that the purpose of the Bill was to express a community right to challenge (although I would say it was still not clear who could participate in the ensuing procurement exercise). Hazel Blears said that the community right to challenge would be meaningless if local groups did not have any money to buy assets.

Caroline Flint noted that the 'community right to buy' was limited in the Bill, with no right of first refusal and no right to a fair price (although these could be introduced later). She said that the planning reforms protected the present but did not provide for the future.

Greg Mulholland MP said that it was not really a 'community right to buy', it was a 'community right to try'.


David Blunkett asked when the current 'interregnum' in infrastructure planning would end. Eric Pickles said that there would be 'no gap in the system'.

Hazel Blears asked why involve local people in planning while abolishing Planning Aid? She said that the Bill raised expectations of local power but dashed them through lack of funding. Even Conservative Kris Hopkins said 'it is quite easy to devolve powers when there is no money left in the kitty'.

On neighbourhood plans, Caroline Flint said that estimates that they could cost up to £250,000 meant that they would allow those with the loudest voices and deepest pockets to impose their will on the community.

Andrea Leadsom MP said that she would seek to raise the Planning Act threshold for onshore windfarms from 50MW to 100MW. Barry Gardiner MP noted that the government's aim for localism came into conflict with its green aims, as local communities were unlikely to support green infrastructure.

Gordon Marsden MP referred to outside bodies calling for powers to be given to local enterprise partnerships in the Bill - they are not mentioned at pressent.

Oddly, Alok Sharma MP gave two examples of residents opposing housing developments to refute the argument that the Bill would encourage nimbyism.

Geoge Hollingbery MP questioned the minimum size of neighbourhood forums and the local referendums that might result, citing the example of a low turnout in a single-street referendum on a neighbourhood plan.

Zac Goldsmith MP said that local referendums, since they were not binding, had the same status as 'a no-hope petition - although they are a hell of a lot more expensive', and should be made binding

Nick Raynsford said that neighbourhood forums lacked democratic accountability and it was not clear who prevailed when they conflicted with local authorities

On regional strategies, the Conservatives pointed to fewer houses being built per year during the Labour administration than the previous Conservative one, whle Labour members said that abolishing the targets would lead to even fewer houses being built. Both could be right.

Peter Aldous MP, a former surveyor, suggested that replacing regional strategies with a duty to co-operate in planning might not be enough.

There were a few calls for a third-party right of appeal (i.e. where grants of planning permission were appealable rather than just refusals).

Strangest analogy of the day - Iain Stewart MP, who said devolving powers to local authorities would be the first time the cub had been away from its mother.

In closing, Greg Clark made an impassioned peroration 'The Bill will put our politics on a different course. It will bring an end to the history of using power to take more power. It will give power to councils, power to communities, power to voluntary groups and power to the people, in the knowledge that the more powerful the people are, the stronger our society is.' With that ringing in MPs' ears, Labour's reasoned amendment fell by 228 votes to 332, and the Bill was then given a second reading without a vote.

I found two misprints in Hansard - very rare - references to 'putting a break on aspiration' and 'do not touch them with a barge poll'.

The Bill will now go for its committee stage, where it will be examined clause by clause over a number of weeks, probably around two months.

The House of Commons has invited written evidence on the Localism Bill to be sent in as soon as possible, via this page. Unfortunately infrastructure planning appears to be absent from the list of 'key areas', but presumably representations can be made on them anyway. The Committee stage on the Bill will start on 25 January. Representations should follow the guidelines on this page and be sent to

Previous entry 205: first Planning Act application examination gets under way

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.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Angus Walker
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions