UK: The Localism Act 2011

The Localism Act 2011

The Localism Act 2011 is a major piece of reforming legislation that makes significant changes to local government, social housing and the planning system; it also amends the rules relating to assured shorthold tenancy deposits.


The Act is the flagship measure of the Government's decentralisation policy, which aims to move decision making from central Government to local communities. The policy is summed up in the Government's guide to the Act: "We think that power should be exercised at the lowest practical level – close to the people who are affected by decisions, rather than distant from them." The central planks of the Act are the abolition of Regional Strategies, a new system of neighbourhood planning which will allow certain development to be approved by a local referendum, new rights for community groups to bid to take over assets of community value when they are sold and the introduction of a general power of competence for local authorities. The original proposal for five per cent of local electors to have the right to trigger a local referendum on any issue has been dropped. Much of the detail of the measures in the Act remains to be dealt with in regulations. The Government aims for many of the major measures to come into effect in April 2012.

This update focuses mainly on the planning aspects of the Act; it does not deal with the provisions relating to social housing, local authority governance, business rates or EU fines.

Abolition of Regional Strategies

The Act provides for the abolition of Regional Strategies – regionally set policies and priorities on matters such as housing supply, the environment, infrastructure and waste, which provide a framework for local planning policies. The Secretary of State had sought to use existing powers to revoke the strategies but his right to do so was challenged in the courts. The Act now puts the matter beyond doubt.

However, local authorities are not given a completely free hand to ignore the effect of their policies on surrounding areas. A new duty to co-operate in preparing development documents is imposed on local planning authorities and county councils. The duty requires them "to engage constructively, actively and on an ongoing basis" with each other in relation to strategic matters, which are, broadly, matters which affect more than one area or authority.

Neighbourhood Planning

At the heart of the Government's localism policy is a radical new system in which there is the option for planning decisions to be dictated by local referendums and, in a major change to the original proposals, businesses will have a say as well as residents.

The new system will apply in relation to local areas to be designated as "neighbourhood areas" which, if they are wholly or predominantly business in nature, may be designated as "business areas". Rights in respect of these areas are given to parish councils and, in areas without parish councils, new bodies to be designated as "neighbourhood forums" whose membership will be open to people who live or work in the area and to local councillors. The designations will be made by local planning authorities.

The parish council or neighbourhood forum will have the right to put forward a "neighbourhood development plan", setting out policies for the development and use of land in the neighbourhood area, and "neighbourhood development orders", which grant planning permission either in relation to a particular site or to the whole or part of the neighbourhood area. A particular type of neighbourhood development order is a "community right to build order", which will permit specific development by a community organisation within certain limits. Regulations will impose requirements for consultation with and participation by the public before a proposal may be submitted.

An independent examiner will decide whether a proposed plan or order should be put to a referendum, taking into account a list of factors including national policies and guidance. If the referendum vote is in favour, then the plan or order must be made, unless it would be incompatible with an EU obligation or a right under the European Convention on Human Rights. In a business area, there will be separate referendums of residents and business rate-payers. If there is a majority in favour in one but not both referendums, then the local planning authority may make the plan or order, but is not obliged to do so.

The cost of the scheme is to be met by imposing a charge on the development authorised, which will be payable when the development commences. It is unlikely, though, that these charges will cover the total costs incurred.

These new rights certainly deliver local democracy, but they also carry the seeds of a "nimby charter" which could result in development being frustrated rather than promoted. They could also promote division within communities.

Pre-application Consultation

The provisions also include a new obligation to consult the local community before submitting a planning application for certain developments. The Government has indicated that the obligation is likely to apply to developments providing more than 200 residential units or 10,000 square metres of non-residential floorspace. Where the obligation applies, the proposed application must be publicised in a way likely to bring it to the attention of a majority of local residents and occupiers, certain people will need to be consulted specifically and there is an obligation to "have regard to" any responses received. The Act does not make clear how far the obligation to have regard to responses extends – for example, whether it is sufficient for the developer to note all the responses but to make no changes to the proposal which would result in any increased cost.

Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects

The system of development consent for major infrastructure projects is significantly modified by the Act. The main changes are:

  • The Infrastructure Planning Commission is abolished;
  • National policy statements are to be approved by Parliament;
  • Applications for consent will be decided by a panel of up to five people appointed by the Secretary of State.

Community Infrastructure Levy

CIL is a locally imposed charge on development, designed to provide additional funding for infrastructure in a way that is more transparent and provides greater certainty than the previous system of individually negotiated planning obligations. Authorities choosing to implement the Levy set a rate per square metre of new floorspace following public consultation and approval by an independent examiner.

The Act makes three main changes to the rules on CIL.

  • Local authorities are given the freedom to decide how to amend their proposed charging schedules to address issues raised by the examiner; they are no longer required to adopt the examiner's recommendations.
  • It is made clear that use of the Levy is not restricted to the provision of new infrastructure but may also include the improvement, replacement, operation or maintenance of infrastructure.
  • Regulations may require the Levy to be used to support the development of the particular area to which the Levy relates by funding not just infrastructure but anything else that is concerned with addressing demands that development places on an area.

A controversial amendment to Section 70 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 requires local planning authorities to have regard to possible government grants and Community Infrastructure Levy, so far as material, when determining planning applications. The provision prompted accusations that it would lead to planning permissions being granted for financial gain rather than on planning merit. In response, Section 143(5) spells out that the amendment does not alter whether regard is to be had to any particular consideration or the weight to be given to any consideration. The effect, therefore, is simply to clarify that it is proper to take finance considerations into account where they are material. Realistically, however, the fact that finance considerations are singled out for special mention may result in them being given greater prominence in the decision process.

Assets of Community Value

The Act introduces provisions to help community interest groups that want to take over local amenities which are threatened with closure. Local authorities will be required to compile a list of "assets of community value". Land and buildings can qualify for inclusion on the list if their current or recent use furthers the social well-being or social interests of the local community and it is realistic to think that such use can continue, whether or not in the same way. A nomination for inclusion on the list may be made by a parish council, a community council in Wales, or a voluntary or community body with a local connection and regulations may also permit other nominations. Land will remain on the list for a maximum of five years.

If property is on the list, the local authority must be notified of a proposed disposal with vacant possession of a freehold or leasehold of at least 25 years. There is then a six week period during which the disposal may not go ahead, to give community interest groups an opportunity to make a written request to be treated as a potential bidder for the property. If such a request in made during the six week period, then the disposal cannot proceed until six months after the original notification to give the group time to make its bid. There is no obligation to accept a bid from the community group. Once the six month period has ended, the property may be disposed of within eighteen months of the original notification, but after that period the process has to begin again. Certain disposals are exempt, such as gifts, disposals to family members or by personal representatives and, in particular, a disposal of part of a business sold as a going concern. Regulations may specify further exemptions. Regulations may provide for compensation to be payable but no details are yet available.

Inclusion of property on the list will clearly cause significant delay to a proposed disposal and therefore could have serious financial consequences for property owners.


The Act makes clear that a member of an authority will not be taken to have a closed mind on an issue (and therefore be open to an allegation of bias) just because he has previously done something that indicated his view on a matter relevant to that issue. The provision is intended to ensure that councillors are not prevented from campaigning or expressing their views on local issues for fear of facing a legal challenge.

Enforcement Powers

The Act includes several measures to strengthen enforcement powers.

Planning authorities are given power to refuse to determine a retrospective planning application for development which is subject to an enforcement notice. The object is to prevent the application being used to delay the enforcement process.

A loophole is plugged by allowing enforcement action to be taken in respect of a deliberately concealed breach of planning control after the statutory time limit has expired. The authority must apply to a magistrates' court for a planning enforcement order within six months after it has sufficient evidence to justify the application. Concerns have been raised that action could be taken against an innocent person who was unaware that a breach had been concealed by a previous owner of the property. This is probably unlikely as the order may only be made where the court considers it just in all the circumstances. It will, however, become more important to ensure that adequate enquiries are made into the planning history when a property is acquired.

The Act also gives local planning authorities powers to remove structures used to display unlawful advertisements and to recover the expense from the person responsible. They may also remove graffiti and recover the cost from the owner of the property unless it is residential. Fines for certain planning offences are also increased.

General Power of Competence

The Act introduces a general power of competence for local authorities, giving them power to do anything that individuals generally may do. That includes doing things for a commercial purpose, anywhere in the UK or elsewhere and whether or not for the benefit of the authority, the area or the residents of the area. The general power is subject to any specific statutory limitation, whether imposed before or after the Act was passed, although the Secretary of State is given power, subject to certain conditions, to amend or repeal a statutory provision which restricts the general power. If an authority acts for a commercial purpose, it must do so through a company.

The general power of competence is very widely worded and the Government has indicated that it is intended to be "fireproof", in other words not capable of being cut down by judicial interpretation.

Compensation for Compulsory Purchase

The Act reforms the planning assumptions to be made when assessing compensation for compulsory purchase. The valuation is to:

  • take account of any planning permission in force at the valuation date, whether for the land acquired or other land (and it is assumed for this purpose that planning permission is in force for the scheme for which the property was acquired);
  • assume that there is in force any planning permission which could reasonably have been expected to be granted on or after the valuation date if the scheme for which the property was acquired had been cancelled;
  • take account of the prospect of planning permission being granted for other development if the scheme for which the property was acquired had been cancelled.

This deals with a particular aspect of the previous law on this point which was perceived as being unfair and was highlighted in the 2009 House of Lords decision of Transport for London (London Underground Limited) v Spirerose Limited (in Administration).

Tenancy Deposits

The Act also amends the rules for the protection of deposits paid by assured shorthold tenants in response to recent court decisions which had significantly reduced the effectiveness of the regime.

  • The period for the landlord to comply with the initial requirements of the scheme and supply prescribed information to the tenant is increased from 14 to 30 days.
  • The penalty for failing to comply with the initial requirements of the scheme or to give the tenant the prescribed information within 30 days will be between one and three times the deposit (rather than fixed at three times the deposit as before).
  • The landlord will no longer escape liability for the statutory penalty if the scheme requirements are complied with late but before the hearing.
  • The tenant will be able to make its court application even if the tenancy has ended.

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.

In association with
Related Video
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
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). 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 & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd 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 or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.