Tuesday, 14 December 2010
The “Decentralisation and Localism Bill” (now with its name shortened to just the “Localism Bill”) has at last been published, and manic cries can be heard coming from within DCLG’s Eland Street headquarters – “It’s alive! It’s alive!” (When reading these words, think either of Kenneth Williams in ‘Carry on Screaming’ or Gene Wilder in ‘Young Frankenstein’.)
As I expected, it is a truly massive document, which makes even the Secretary of State look quite slim by comparison. Someone predicted a few weeks ago that the Bill could have as many as 100 clauses; in fact it contains 207 clauses and 24 schedules and runs to 406 pages of text (printed in two volumes).
Those familiar with Mary Shelley’s novel will be aware that the real trouble began when the monster escaped from the laboratory and got out into the surrounding towns and countryside. That is what is worrying a lot of people involved in planning and development. It is the practical consequences of unleashing this Frankenstein’s Monster into the world that really scares us.
Meanwhile, one wonders how parliament is going to handle such an unwieldy Bill. I strongly suspect that discussion of large parts of the Bill may well end up being guillotined, which will lead to what are in any event controversial and possibly unworkable proposals passing into law without any proper scrutiny.
I don’t propose to rush into superficial comment on the Bill’s detailed contents. I will examine at my leisure those parts of the Bill which affect the planning system, and draw attention to particular points as they arise. There are bound to be second and third thoughts on the part of ministers and their advisers as the Bill wends its way through the parliamentary process, and some parts of the Bill may emerge in a form which differs significantly from this first draft.
So watch this space in the weeks and months to come.
© MARTIN H GOODALL