Work continues to try to improve bill

The bill has seen many changes since its introduction but more are needed, argues James Butler.

Grant Shapps MP's recent tweet said it all: "Democracy can be a VERY slow process. 17mths on from introducing it in first Queen's Speech, Localism Bill clears its report stage in Lords."

Perhaps it should not have been such a surprise that a complex bill dealing with planning, housing and local government should merit considerable scrutiny, particularly in the absence of government pre-legislative consultation. And it has further to go before becoming law.

Report stage saw yet more change to the planning aspects of the bill. Controversial clause 130 that would introduce local financial considerations has been amended so that the New Homes Bonus - as Earl Attlee speaking on behalf of the government put it - "does not affect the weight to be given to any particular consideration". But the Royal Town Planning Institute remains convinced that the clause is still confusing and unnecessary.

The government has accepted a suggestion from Civic Voice and the RTPI to tidy up provisions for business-led neighbourhood forums and has also introduced a duty to consult on neighbourhood forums, an idea that was driven by the institute.

We are also promised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) transitional arrangements in the form of guidance to help local authorities adapt to the new planning system.

Third reading in the Lords offers a further opportunity to improve the bill. We still believe that the NPPF needs to be mentioned in the Localism Bill in order that it has statutory weight, that the enforcement provisions in the bill can be beefed up and that it would be wise to define sustainable development in the bill or the NPPF.

James Butler is the institute's communications and public affairs officer.


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