The legislation underpinning major reforms of the English planning system has received Royal Assent with ministers arguing the measures represent an historic shift of power back to local people.
As well as abolishing regional strategies and the Infrastructure Planning Commission, the Localism Act 2011 will mean a new tier of land use planning in the shape of neighbourhood plans.
Key measures to increase the power of local government as a result of the Act include introducing a new general power of competence designed to give councils unprecedented freedom to work together to improve services and opening the door for the transfer of power to major cities to develop their areas, improve local services and boost local economies.
The Act clarifies the rules on predetermination which will allow councillors to express their opinions on issues of local importance such as planning proposals without the fear of legal challenge.
The measures also introduce a new regime for pre-application consultations and new planning enforcement rules, giving councils power to take action against people who deliberately conceal unauthorised development and Increases powers for councils to remove illegal advertisements and graffiti and prevent fly-posting.
The legislation also enables communities to bring forward proposals for development - such as homes, shops, playgrounds or meeting halls, through the Community Right to Build.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: "For too long, local people were held back and ignored because Whitehall thought it knew best. That is changing for good. Councils have their General Power of Competence and residents have a real power over decisions like planning, community buildings or local services."
Decentralisation minister Greg Clark said: "This historic Act begins to reverse a hundred years of centralisation. It puts power into the hands of citizens, community groups and local councils. It breaks the monopoly on all new policy initiatives having to come from Whitehall by giving a new right of initiative to people in their local areas.”
A plain English guide to the Localism Act is available at: www.communities.gov.uk/publications/localgovernment/localismplainenglishupdate.
17 November 2011