Localism: a charter to prevent land development?

Rebecca Muller, Land Manager

In November 2011 the Localism Act was introduced in order to challenge the central government driven decision-making process and devolve power to local level government.

In theory this was supposed to be a forward-thinking move that would help build and shape communities in a way that would benefit the people who live and work within them in the form of Neighbourhood Planning.

Neighbourhood Development Plans form part of the development plan for the Local Planning Authority which sets out the vision for a borough over a period of 15-25 years and is very important in setting the development aspirations of the Local Authority.

Each community has the right to create a Neighbourhood Plan in order to contribute towards the shaping of their neighbourhood. The Plans have a large influence over planning application outcomes and are used to help direct development as well as set out local policy.

However, it is becoming more and more apparent that Neighbourhood Development Plans are being used as a weapon to prevent development altogether with little regard to helping the local community thrive and provide much needed housing.

It should not come as a surprise that there is a housing crisis within the UK, with central government attempting to deliver circa 300,000 houses per annum to meet the current demand and the backlog.

It is therefore the responsibility of communities up and down the country to help deliver the aspirations of central government through local level decision making.

The Localism Act (2011) should have been used as a way of bridging the gap between central and local government through creating the opportunity to build and enhance communities that will benefit current and future generations, rather than creating a problem for them.

Development is quite often viewed as a threat when, in reality, it helps fund a lot of local infrastructure, supports and creates new local amenities, creates employment and pumps much needed funding into healthcare and education.

Rather than burying our head in the sand and resisting change, Neighbourhood Planning should be viewed as an opportunity to guide housing towards locations that are mutually beneficial for all parties, rather than a charter to prevent it altogether.