The Localism Act: planning provisions at a glance

Click through for a summary of the key planning and regeneration-related measures contained in the flagship Localism Act, which received Royal Assent yesterday.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) says that the Act "will trigger the biggest transfer of power in a generation".

It includes a raft of planning and regeneration-related measures – read on for a brief summary:

Abolition of regional strategies
Communities secretary Eric Pickles wrote to local authorities in 2010 to tell them that the government intended to abolish regional strategies. The Localism Act will enable the government to do this. A 12-week consultation into eight strategic environmental assessments into the decision to scrap regional strategies must be completed before orders can be laid in Parliament to revoke the plans.

Duty to cooperate
The duty requires local authorities and other public bodies to work together on planning issues.

Neighbourhood planning
The Act introduces a new right for communities to draw up a neighbourhood plan. The DCLG says that local communities will be able to use neighbourhood planning to grant full or outline planning permission in areas where they most want to see new homes and businesses.

According to the DCLG, provided a neighbourhood development plan or order is in line with national planning policy, with the strategic vision for the wider area set by the local authority, and with other legal requirements, local people will be able to vote on it in a referendum. If the plan is approved by a majority of those who vote, then the local authority will bring it into force.

Community right to build
Under provisions in the new Act, a community organisation, formed by members of the local community, will be able to bring forward development proposals which, providing they meet minimum criteria and can demonstrate local support through a referendum, will be able to go ahead without requiring a separate traditional planning application.

Requirement to consult communities before submitting certain planning applications
The Act introduces a new requirement for developers to consult local communities before submitting planning applications for certain developments.

Strengthening enforcement rules
The Localism Act will strengthen planning authorities’ powers to tackle abuses of the planning system, such as deliberately concealing new developments.

Reforming the Community Infrastructure Levy
The Act gives the government the power to require that some of the money raised from the levy go directly to the neighbourhoods where development takes place.

Reform the way local plans are made
The Localism Act will limit the discretion of planning inspectors to insert their own wording into local plans.

Nationally significant infrastructure projects
The Localism Act abolishes the Infrastructure Planning Commission and hands its responsibility for taking decisions to government ministers. It also ensures the national policy statements, which will be used to guide decisions by ministers, can be voted on by Parliament.

Clarifying the rules on predetermination
The Localism Act makes it clear that it is proper for councillors to play an active part in local discussions, and that they should not be liable to legal challenge as a result.

Greater local control over business rates
The Localism Act gives councils more freedom to offer business rate discounts. Councils would need to meet the cost of any discount from local resources.

Directly elected mayors
The government intends to trigger a referendum in the largest cities outside London, inviting local people to decide whether they want to have an elected mayor. Referendums are being planned for May 2012. For areas that vote in favour, mayoral elections will then be held shortly afterwards.

More powers for cities
The Act also enables ministers to transfer local public functions from central government and remote quangos to local authorities, combined authorities and economic prosperity boards - in order to improve local accountability or promote economic growth. Authorities will be encouraged to come forward with innovative proposals.

Community right to bid (assets of community value)
The Localism Act requires local authorities to maintain a list of assets of community value which have been nominated by the local community. When listed assets come up for sale or change of ownership, the Act then gives community groups the time to develop a bid and raise the money to bid to buy the asset when it comes on the open market.

Source: A plain English guide to the Localism Act, published by DCLG.

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