The first in our series of mini guides on the Government’s Localism Bill provides a brief summary of the Bill’s proposals for planning.

In the next few days, we will be writing in more detail about particular aspects of the Bill and how they could begin to affect you. We also provide our early take on how we think you can begin to get to grips with the new planning landscape.

What is Localism?

The Government sees Localism as being about giving power back to local communities. And includes a range of measures to do this.

Regional Spatial Strategies

So one of the first things it will do is abolish regional strategies. The Government had tried to do this soon after the Election. But Eric Pickles’ decision has been challenged in the courts. The Bill will now make this change permanent. This means no regional planning policy and, in particular no regional housing targets. Decisions on such matters will pass to local councils. To replace the loss of regional co-ordination local councils will now have a duty to cooperate on strategic planning issues.

Neighbourhood Planning

At the same time, communities themselves are to be given more say in the future of their area with the introduction of Neighbourhood Planning.

This will allow community groups and Parish and Town Councils the ability to prepare statutory neighbourhood plans.

Neighbourhood Development Orders

Neighbourhoods would also be able to prepare Neighbourhood Development Orders. These orders would allow automatic or outline approval for certain types of neighbourhood development. An example would be a Community Right to Build Order.

Business Development Orders

Interestingly, not in the original Bill, but announced in the 2011 Budget businesses will also be able to prepare Business Development Orders for business and industrial parks (click here for further information.)

Local Development Plan Documents

It is proposed to return power to local authorities from the Planning Inspectorate. Inspector’s reports will no longer be binding on the local authority. As long as the plan is considered sound the local authority will be able to adopt this and any changes by the Inspector will only be suggestions.


Councillors will be freed up to campaign and express views on issues before they vote on such matters. This would include planning issues.

Community Infrastructure Levy

The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) allows Council to set charges on new development to contribute to new infrastructure. The Bill proposes that some of the Levy will be passed to neighbourhoods where the development has taken place, and that Council’s will have greater control over setting their own levy.


Compulsory consultation prior to submitting very large applications will be introduced. Developers will be required to have regard to any opinions raised during these consultations and whether to make any changes before submitting their application.


Council powers to deal with retrospective planning permissions are going to be strengthened, as are powers to deal with misleading applications.

Nationally significant projects

The Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) will be abolished and replaced by a Major Infrastructure Planning Unit (MIPU). Decisions on such projects will no longer be taken by the IPC, but by Ministers based on recommendations of the MIPU.

Community right to buy

Not under the planning provisions of the Bill, but with potentially huge impacts for planning and development. And with significant impact on land and property owners is Community Right to Buy (CRB).

CRB would allow communities to bid to buy identified community assets. Local authorities, in consultation, will draw up such lists. Once land and property are identified as community asset, communities will be offered a set period to buy the asset before it is sold on the open market.

Things not in the Bill

Often it is the things that are not said that can be the most important, and two things not in the Localism Bill need a mention: the National Planning Policy Framework, and the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

To give power to local areas the Government is proposing to reduce many of the documents providing central Government guidance. For example, Planning Policy Statements. In their place would be a National Planning Policy Framework.

The Government are to introduce a presumption in favour of sustainable development. The default position for development and growth should be a yes unless sustainable development principles are compromised.



©Kirkwells Town Planners and Sustainable Development Consultants based at the Lancashire Digital Technology Centre in Burnley
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