Localism Bill ‘to shift planning powers’

Author: Local Government Chronicle   |  

New planning laws will give neighbourhoods more influence over the kind of developments they want in their areas, it has been revealed.

The change would hand some of the planning responsibilities currently exercised by councils over to new officially recognised neighbourhood groups in a bid to cut back on red tape.

And it could result in homeowners being given the freedom to build extensions, add a storey or a conservatory to their homes or install driveways without planning permission.

Residents would also gain the power to approve or reject proposals for new housing developments, schools and other public buildings in their areas – with incentives for communities which agree to new homes being built.

The proposals are included in a Localism Bill due to be published by communities secretary Eric Pickles. The government has said the bill will be published on Thursday 9 December.

The bill is expected to allow groups of householders to apply to be recognised as “neighbourhoods”, covering a group of streets or larger areas. There would be a presumption that local authorities will approve the status.

Officially established neighbourhoods could then prepare “neighbourhood plans” which would be put to referendums. If approved, the plans would have to be accepted by the council.

The groups would also be allowed to draw up categories of development which could be carried out without planning permission – such as extensions or loft conversions.

Communities minister Greg Clark, told the Sunday Telegraph: “This government has ambitious proposals to make the system fit to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Above all, we want to change the philosophy behind local planning.

“We want to move away from a system with significant elements of imposition from above, to one with participation and involvement at its heart – not just warm words, or a commitment in principle, but real opportunities for people to have a say.

“We also want to move away from a system that seeks to resolve the different needs of different groups at a local level by imposing choices from above, towards one which enables a mature debate at local level.”

The paper also reported that the bill will pave the way for elected mayors in 12 cities: Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Nottingham, Sheffield and Wakefield.

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