The Localism Bill received Royal Assent on Tuesday 15 November 2011 and will implement the government’s plan to shift power from central government into the hands of individuals, communities and local councils.
The final act is expected to be law by the beginning of 2012, and includes significant changes to planning legislation and policy formulation. However, until the Bill becomes law existing planning policy and law prevails, including regional plans and planning policy statements.
Community projects in the early stages need to be aware of new local planning powers for communities and parish councils that are proposed in the Localism Bill. There are potential opportunities and a heightened importance of the wider community in planning decisions that may well be useful.
The proposals are outlined more fully on the PlanLoCal website where they are concentrating on the elements that are likely to impact on low carbon activities. A plain English guide to the Localism Bill is available, still useful but a little out of date as the Bill has altered during its parliamentary progress. In the meantime definitive updates are available on the Parliament website.
The Bill proposes that significant new rights are passed directly to communities and individuals, making it easier to get things done and achieve ambitions for local areas.
Community right to challenge
The Localism Bill will give groups the right to express an interest in taking over the running of a local service. The local authority must consider and respond to this challenge. This will make it easier for local groups with good ideas to put them forward and drive improvement in local services.
Community right to bid
Proposals in the Localism Bill will require local authorities to maintain a list of assets of community value. Communities will have the opportunity to nominate for possible inclusion the assets that are most important to them. When listed assets come up for sale or change of ownership, community groups will have time to develop a bid and raise the money to buy the asset when it comes on the open market. This will help local communities keep much-loved sites in public use and part of local life.
This may provide opportunities to ensure community facilities and services are maintained which will allow residents to stay in the area and reduce the need to travel.
The Localism Act will impact on the rural community and in turn affect landscape status issues apparent throughout AONB's and National Parks. Before sustainable development is allowed to occur as a result it is important that people are aware of its existence.