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  6. MPs urge change to Localism Bill to spell out strategic cooperation

MPs urge change to Localism Bill to spell out strategic cooperation

Members of a parliamentary committee have urged the Government to modify the Localism Bill to include a new obligation on local planning authorities to work on an agreed approach to larger-than-local planning across neighbouring authorities

MPs on the Commons Communities and Local Government Committee recommended this should be specified in national policy. They also called on ministers to amend the legislation to spell out what actions local authorities should take in respect of their new duty to cooperate

These recommendations were highlighted in a report which said the intended abolition of regional strategies (RSs) had left a vacuum which risked having profound social, economic and environmental consequences.

Committee chair Clive Betts MP said the intended abolition of RSs was “giving rise to an inertia that is likely to hinder development - making it much harder to deliver necessary but controversial or emotive ‘larger than local’ facilities - such as waste disposal sites, mineral workings or sites for Gypsies and Travellers. It will also make it more difficult to ensure that our national need for new housing is met”.

Planning Minister Bob Neill said:
“It was under the last Government that housebuilding rates fell to their lowest peacetime levels since 1924. Regional targets clearly failed to build the right number of homes in the right places. Top-down targets just alienated the public and undermined support for new housing.

“Under the Coalition Government’s reforms, councils now have a clear financial incentive to build from the New Homes Bonus. Latest figures from the National Housebuilding Council and from the Office for National Statistics already show a surge of optimism from a construction industry that is beginning to build again.”

Under the Government’s New Homes Bonus scheme almost £1bn Government funding has been set aside for councils that welcome new housing development, which they will be able to spend to benefit their local community.

Detailed scrutiny by MPs of the Coalition’s Localism Bill has now finished after 24 sessions in the Commons. It will go to the Lords later this year once its report stage and Third Reading debate are held.

Access the committee report.


Roger Milne

17 March 2011