Today's entry looks at what of the Localism Act 2011 is now
coming into force and what is still left to come into force.
The Localism Act 2011 contains a range of measures that may have
an effect on the planning, authorisation and implementation of
infrastructure projects. Apart from the changes to the
Planning Act 2008 itself, which are all beneficial, the provisions
in the Act often have the potential to cause projects
difficulties. Almost all of the Act will be in force by 1
July thanks to a further 'commencement order' published earlier
What has already come into force
Most of it, including the infrastructure planning changes, which
as we all know, came into force on 1 April this year.
Neighbourhood planning is in force, but as far as I know only one
neighbourhood plan has reached the stage of being examined by an
inspector - for Dawlish in Devon. The inspector recommended that it did not proceed
to a referendum. mainly because the local authority's
local plan had not been settled yet, which was a bit of a
What is coming into force around now
The latest commencement order brings two main areas into force:
the revised local authority standards regime and the 'community
right to challenge'.
The first of these gives local authorities more scope to develop
their own standards of conduct for councillors, while beefing up
the offences if pecuniary interests are not declared.
The second of these allows voluntary organisations to challenge
the provision of local authority services with a view to taking
them over themselves. However this has an Achilles heel that
if challenged, a service will have to undergo a general procurement
exercise open to anyone, and so the voluntary organisation may not
end up running it after all - the challenge process could be a
Trojan horse for large service companies (which nearly isn't a
What is left to come into force
The following major provisions have yet to come into force
(there are also some more minor ones):
the standards regime changes applying to police
the offloading of EU sanctions from the government to local
authorities and other bodies applying in Wales;
the 'assets of community value' regime intended to
protect village pubs, post offices etc.;
the duty of pre-application consultation applying to larger
planning applications generally (familiar to Planning Act
aficionados, but not as onerous); and
some of the housing provisions such as homelessness duties and
the housing ombudsman.
The power to abolish regional strategies (planning documents at
a regional level, setting things like housing and renewable energy
targets) came into force the day the Act was passed last
November. Given the election commitment to abolish them
'rapidly' and the first attempt to do so nearly two years ago on
6 July, you might have thought they were long gone. But
no, they are still in force. Indeed this decision letter from Mr Pickles a mere
two days ago still feels that only limited weight should be placed
on their impending revocation - see paragraph 11.
It is not just with the Planning Act regime that things take
longer than you might think, it seems.
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