The Coalition’s ground-breaking Localism Bill includes measures to extend the new Community Right to Build across England.
Initially this new right was to be restricted to rural areas but the administration has decided that communities across the country will also be able to use these powers.
Any community organisation bringing forward new developments under this power will not need to make a normal application for planning permission, if it meets minimum criteria and has local support through a referendum.
The new Community Right to Build sits alongside wider Neighbourhood Planning reforms in the legislation which sets out the most radical set of planning reforms proposed by any Government for a generation.
As well as a Community Right to Build, £1bn has been allocated towards a New Homes Bonus, offering cash for councils who allow new homes to be built in their area.
Housing minister Grant Shapps said: "These community-led developments won't need normal planning permission, but will instead need to pass the test of public opinion, and gain the support of more than half of voters in a local referendum. I hope this will prompt neighbourhoods up and down the country to consider the housing needs of their communities, and take up their right to build."
The Localism Bill involves a planning reform package which includes the abolition of regional strategies; a duty on local councils to co-operate; the introduction of the Community Infrastructure Levy and local plan-making reform including the new neighbourhood planning regime.
Also in the legislation are measures about pre-application consultation and enforcement.
The Bill also scraps the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), most of whose functions are due to be transferred to the yet-to-be established Major Infrastructure Planning Unit of the Planning Inspectorate.
Under these provisions Secretaries of State will determine schemes like new power stations, motorways and airports. The new arrangements means the House of Commons will have the power to approve National Policy Statements (NPSs). Currently NPSs are merely discussed in Parliament.
One clause of the Bill allows the Secretary of State to direct what happens to applications that have been received but not yet decided by the IPC at the time it is abolished.
The SoS can direct that a Commissioner or the Panel of Commissioners considering an application should continue to do so. This is a discretionary power.
There are a number of changes to the requirements facing project developers including consultations with neighbouring authorities and how much of the Statement of Community Consultation must be published in local newspapers.
There is a new provision which would allow hearings to take place in private in the interests of defence or national security. There are also modifications to the compulsory purchase regime.
Angus Walker, a partner with law firm Bircham Dyson Bell, said: “All these latter provisions of the Bill are either a political inevitability or an improvement of the existing regime. There is some scope for further changes to be made, but none of the changes that are proposed seem to be retrograde.”
16 December 2010