Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Localism Bill – the debate begins

Quite a few people have rushed forward in the queue to be first with their reactions to the Bill, but I propose to work through the text of the Bill more carefully before sounding off on particular issues. There are undoubtedly some real ‘nasties’ in the Bill, but then we have always known there would be.

Rather than tackling the Bill in the order in which the various provisions are presented, I propose to take first the Enforcement provisions, partly because it is an area in which I am frequently involved on a professional basis and also because it seems to me that the proposed changes are important and potentially damaging to the interest of those who have the misfortune to incur the displeasure of the planners. Another very controversial area is the whole subject of “Neighbourhood Planning”, and this too calls for close attention. It may be next week before I am in a position to set out my thoughts on these provisions, but they clearly merit careful examination before I attempt to do so.

Incidentally, expressions of relief that the Bill does not contain some of the proposals set out in the Tories’ pre-election ‘Green Paper’ (“Open Source Planning”) are somewhat premature. It was always clear that ideas such as third party rights of appeal against the grant of planning permission and the serious curtailment of the right to appeal against the refusal of planning permission would not be included in the current Bill. But that does not mean they have gone away. My understanding is that they are still on the agenda, and that the government intends to introduce them at a later date. Of course, there is always the hope that those ideas might still fall by the wayside, whether due to lack of parliamentary time to introduce further legislation later in the present parliament, or in light of difficulties encountered in implementing the ‘Localism Act’ when it eventually becomes law. At present, however, the threat to the appeals system contained in “Open Source Planning” is still there, albeit postponed for the time being.


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