27 January 2011

The Government’s new emphasis on neighbourhood planning and localism will require planners to change some traditional ways of working in favour of “innovation, collaboration and passing down power”. That was Decentralisation Minister Greg Clark’s key message when he clarified the Government’s aspirations for a new tier of plan-making at a meeting organised by the Planning Officers Society.

He stressed that neighbourhood planning was conceived to encourage greater involvement and from a wider range of people. Mr Clark explained that it would be up to Councils to decide which groups and local bodies could develop neighbourhood plans.

The Minister said that the new arrangements would reinforce the importance of existing local plans but denied that the new regime would undermine locally elected representatives.

Mr Clark stated: “neighbourhood planning is an opportunity for locally elected representatives. They will be able to work with local people, to help them express themselves, to lead and inform the debate in the best interests of the local area. Councillors should not feel left out, they should get stuck in.”

The Localism Bill, the legislation that underpins the Coalition’s planning reforms, will be scrutinised by a Committee of MPs sitting four times a week starting on 1 February 2011. Their work will have to be completed by 10 March 2011, Parliament has agreed.

During preliminary evidence sessions just completed, MPs heard there was broad support for the Government’s measures in principle but reservations about the resources which would be available for the new planning regime and concern over the Government’s proposals for over one hundred reserve powers in the Bill.