The Localism Bill – Thanks, Dave.
I was doing a little reading and research today, keeping an eye on developments regarding the Localism Bill due to come into being in the very near future. If you are unaware of the Localism Bill, and what it means in terms of planning (because its a very wide reaching Bill, covering alot of areas unrelated to architecture), then give this great explanation from the BBC a read:
Local communities will be able to propose development which, if it meets certain safeguards and gets 50% of support in a local referendum, will be able to built without planning permission. It is aimed at tackling lack of building in rural areas where planning authorities restrict building but local people want new housing or other facilities. Also big developments will require early consultation with local people to let them comment and collaborate on things like design – before plans are finalised. Developers would have to consider opinions raised before submitting planning applications. The bill also confirms the abolition of Infrastructure Planning Commission – instead ministers will take decisions on big planning projects such as airports and wind farms.
Now I’m not sure if its a case that those who penned this fantastical bill simply didn’t read it, or this is one massive joke but I can only see problems down the road for a Bill that will essentially put local planning matters in the hands of a choice few members of the public. “Hang on, thats not what it says”, I hear you say. True, it states that the local community will have the ability to vote on local extensions/developments and regeneration, bypassing the current mess that is the planning permission process.
Translated for those who don’t work within the industry: The new Localism Bill will lead to the vetoing of any proposed works that do not meet the aims and vision of local groups. ‘Local groups? It doesn’t mention those either’. No, it wouldn’t. The local groups I’m referring to are the societies that dot our local communities. Again, you may not be aware of them, and if you read here, my feelings on them are clear, and you’ll see why it will be these groups that the Localism Bill will benefit.
The current planning policies are a right mess. They grew out of a need to protect London after the Great Fire (yes the 1666 one!). Over the last 350 years or so they have grown and adapted to, as best they can, provide unilateral support and protection to those wishing to build, whilst at the same time, support those affected by said works.
This new Bill will transfer power from the inept (but agenda-less) council planning officers that currently oversee planning into the hands of those ghastly local societies, which for anyone wishing to add to their 3 bedroom home in a London conservation area is bad news.
In principle, this planning aspect of the Localism Bill is a great idea, but so was communism. Things never go the way they’re supposed to, and its inevitable that this will go the same way. What we need in planning is impartiality, we need decisions to be made by those who have no vested interest other than seeing that planning policy is adhered to.
Equally terrifying is the idea of local people being able to collaborate on design! Homer car anyone?