8 December 2010

Planning Act Blog 195: Localism Bill on Thursday as Government Confused over Contents

This is entry number 195, first published on 7 December 2010, of a blog on the implementation of the Planning Act 2008.
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This is entry number 195, first published on 7 December 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 on the latest timing and contents of the forthcoming Localism Bill.

The keenly awaited Localism Bill (the word Decentralisation having been dropped from the title some time ago) will introduce the first significant changes to the regime for authorising major infrastructure established by the Planning Act 2008, as well as many other measures. It is rumoured to have around 200 clauses.

The Bill is expected to be published on Thursday 9 December. This is somewhat later than the date that was originally expected of 22 November, and indeed later than CLG's Structural Reform Plan date of November 2010 (despite their protestations that no date had been set).

CLG have mentioned the delay in their November update on the Structural Reform Plan, but by mistake their references to the Bill contents are not taken from the Structural Reform Plan itself, but from their draft Business Plan, which is still out to consultation. The two lists do not quite match, but I suspect that the Bill will contain all the things in both lists, and other things besides.

Here is the list from the Structural Reform Plan, with an * against those that are also listed in the draft Business Plan:

  • *1.1 Decentralise power as far as possible through the Localism Bill: (a) give councils a general power of competence; (b) abolish the Standards Board; (c) give communities powers to save local facilities threatened with closure; (d) give communities the right to bid to take over local state-run services
  • *1.2 Identify and implement measures to allow councils to return to the committee system, should they wish to, as part of the Localism Bill
  • 1.4 iii Empower authorities and businesses to come together and form new partnerships - Introduce legislation as appropriate through the Localism Bill
  • 2.1 Meet people's housing aspirations by streamlining and speeding up the planning system, through the Localism Bill, including: (a) creating local housing trusts; *(b) abolishing Home Information Packs; *(c) scrapping 'pay as you throw' rubbish schemes
  • 2.3 ii Increase mobility among social housing tenants to make social housing more flexible - introduce legislation as appropriate through the Localism Bill
  • 2.8 Develop options for the Housing Revenue Account, including voluntary arrangements, through the Localism Bill
  • *3.1 Replace the Infrastructure Planning Commission with an efficient and democratically accountable system that provides a fast-track process for major infrastructure projects, through the Localism Bill
  • *3.2 Radically reform the planning system to give neighbourhoods much greater ability to determine the shape of the places in which their inhabitants live, based on the principles set out in the Conservative Party publication "Open Source Planning". Local Planning Authorities able to begin working in new ways on local plans in advance of the passing of the Localism Bill; i. Create a presumption in favour of sustainable development
  • 3.3 Maintain the Green Belt, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and other environmental protections, and create a new designation to protect green areas of particular importance to local communities, as part of the Localism Bill
  • *3.4 ii Abolish requirement for Regional Strategies through the Localism Bill
  • *4.1 Legislate through the Localism Bill for directly elected Mayors to enable the largest 12 cities in England to have Mayors from 2012, subject to confirmatory referenda and full scrutiny by elected councillors
  • *4.6 Give residents the power to instigate local referendums on any local issue and to veto excessive council tax increases, through the Localism Bill
  • *5.9 Give councillors the power to vote on large salary packages for unelected council officials

On the other hand, the draft Business Plan gives the following (and again there is an * against those that appear on both lists):

Introduce the Localism Bill to implement the following actions:

  • *1.2 ii, directly elected Mayors
  • 2.1 ii, measures to reinvigorate local accountability, democracy and participation
  • 2.4 v, closure of Regional Development Agencies
  • 4.1 ii, social housing measures
  • *4.3 iii, abolition of Home Information Packs
  • *4.5 v, reform of the Housing Revenue Account
  • 4.6 ii, home swap measures to increase mobility among social housing tenants
  • 4.10 ii, abolition of the Tenant Services Authority
  • *5.1 v, reform of the planning system
  • *5.3 ii, repeal of Regional Strategies and introduction of a duty to co-operate for local authorities
  • *5.4 ii, abolition of the Infrastructure Planning Commission

The draft Business Plan also gives the following. This is described as 'complete' in the Structural Reform Plan update, given that the draft Business Plan only requires them to draft, rather than introduce, these measures. If they had taken the measures from the correct source they would have had to list these as delayed as well.

Draft legislation to:

  • *a. Give councils a general power of competence
  • *b. Give residents the power to instigate local referendums on any local issue
  • *c. Give residents the power to veto excessive Council Tax increases
  • d. Give local businesses the power to veto supplementary business rates
  • *e. Increase transparency and local democratic accountability over decisions on local government senior pay
  • *f. Scrap bin taxes
  • *g. Abolish the Standards Board regime
  • *h. Allow councils to return to the committee system should they wish to
  • *i. Give communities the right to save local facilities threatened with closure
  • *j. Give communities the right to bid to take over local state-run services

I previously set out the rumours and leaks of what the Bill was going to contain on its previous due date of 22 November in this blog entry. Here are the items from that entry that are not listed above explicitly - will they be included?

  • require National Policy Statements (NPSs) to be approved by a vote in Parliament
  • add a level of plan-making below local authorities (neighbourhood plans)
  • extend the pre-application consultation duty to all major applications, not just infrastructure applications
  • require local authorities to complete their development plans by mid-2102
  • introduce a 'national planning framwork' to replace the current planning policy guidance and planning policy statements
  • clarify the law on predetermination and bias in local government
  • referendums on whether to have elected mayors in England's twelve largest cities outside London
  • match council tax receipts from new homes to encourage house-building
  • allow privatisation of local authority-run services by allowing outside organisations to challenge local authorities that they can do better
  • shake up allocations for council housing and homelessness assistance

All will be revealed on Thursday, and of course a full report and analysis will appear here.

Previous entry 194: sparks amid snow at energy NPS public consultation event

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