Pickles ushers in radical overhaul of planning

Aaron Morby 13 years ago

The government has published its draft Localism and Decentralisation Bill to bring sweeping changes to the country’s planning system.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles laid the Bill before Parliament claiming it would return planning powers to local councils and communities.

The Bill contains radical measures to hand local communities more control over housing. It will also introduce payments through the New Homes Bonus to encourage house building by matching council tax payments on new homes for first six years.

When passed the Bill will officially abolish the regional planning system created by New Labour in 2004, removing targets for house building.

Pickles said: “The Localism Bill will herald a ground-breaking shift in power to councils and communities overturning decades of central government control and starting a new era of people power.”

House builders have greeted the move with caution warning that the Government must launch an offensive to win the hearts and minds of local communities.

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said: “The Localism Bill proposals provide a real chance for people to develop their communities for the better and house builders will work with them to build the homes communities and families want.”

“More homes will mean more money for local facilities and services and will enable young people to live in the communities where they grew up.

But he warned: “The government and local councils need to join us in educating communities of the severity of the housing crisis and the benefits of new homes.”

According to a recent YouGov poll there have been worrying signs of rising ‘nimbyism’. Some builders fear this could lead to fewer homes being built.

Kate Henderson, chief executive of the Town and Country Planning Association, called it ‘the most far-reaching proposals to change the planning system since the 1947 Planning Act’.

She added: ‘However, questions remain about matching the resources to the programme for transformation expected in the bill.

In order for a neighbourhood plan to be a meaningful choice, communities are going to need intellectual as well as financial support.’

The Bill also brings in new powers allowing councils to decide who to allocate social homes to and gives them direct control over where to reinvest rents.

Twelve cities will also be freed to elect mayors with similar powers to to the London mayor Boris Johnson.

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