Localism and Promoting Development Interests

The Localism Act 2011, is designed to give greater powers and influence to local communities.
The intended abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies, is an initiative to remove the top down edict on development levels, from central government, to a system where local councils determine their own strategies for economic growth, housing and transport provision and so on.

All parties to land development are currently feeling their way in respect of how the new regime will work out and how the rules of engagement will evolve. To a considerable degree, Localism is an article of faith by Government; that local planning authorities will grasp the nettle, apply the presumption in favour of sustainable development, enshrined in the National Planning Policy Framework, have planning policies and produce Neighbourhood Plans that provide for and encourage, the requisite levels of growth required to house people decently and create employment.

Conversely, there are those that say the 2011 Act is a charter to say no to development and they question whether there is any incentive to engage with Neighbourhood Plans, save where they represent an opportunity to curtail levels of development that are already in the pipeline.

There is also an added difficulty, in that with the abolition of a regional tier of involvement, a great deal of expertise has been lost in providing the requisite evidence base on which to make policy decisions. With housing provision for example, a number of authorities have reduced the levels of growth previously determined on a regional basis, while others have stuck with the regional figures. There is an added complication, in that the courts have made it absolutely clear on a number of occasions, that until adopted regional strategies are abolished, plan preparation must pay heed to the levels of growth in those strategies.

To reflect the wider geographical strategies in regional plans, the Localism Act requires local planning authorities to co-operate with one another when preparing their development plans. Failure to do this at the outset, could render the plan unsound. The Government is now becoming increasingly nervous that localism is in fact inimical to growth and this is reflected in a number of appeal decisions where development has been allowed in advance of new plans being prepared and exhortations to local planning authorities to “improve their performance”.

All of this means, that in a period of such uncertainty, promoting development interests relies heavily on making informed decisions based on experience of emerging policy and practice.

Services available include;

  • Assessing where best to invest in land and promoting land allocations in plans
  • Advising on the timescales involved to help with contractual arrangements between developers and landowners
  • Closely examining the evidence base relied on when participating in the production/examination of Local Plans/Core Strategies
  • Presenting robust and cogent arguments at such examinations, especially where a contrary view is being promoted