Localism Bill

Memorandum submitted by Environmental Services Association (L 21)

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) is the trade association representing the UK’s waste and secondary resource industry, which is leading the transformation of how the UK’s waste is managed.  An industry accounting for 0.7% GDP, our Members have helped England’s recycling rate quadruple in the last ten years and provide over a quarter of the UK’s renewable electricity.

Summary

1. ESA’s Members require a strategic approach to waste management planning to enable the delivery of up to £20billion of investment in new plant and equipment for the UK’s compliance with EU waste law.

2. Delays in consenting recycling and waste recovery facilities – infrastructure which diverts waste from landfill – would mean that local authorities and businesses face higher waste disposal costs, as the landfill tax continues to rise.

3. The Localism Bill aims to increase local influence and ownership over planning decisions, however, it remains unclear how this will be reconciled with the pressing need to deliver the UK’s next generation of waste and energy infrastructure, which are often vehemently opposed by local communities.

4. To address these concerns, amendments to the Bill should:

· place the National Planning Framework on a statutory footing;

· allow greater flexibility in applying the Planning Act’s thresholds for national development;

· define a "presumption in favour of sustainable development";

· exclude planning decisions from the scope of local referendums; and

· expedite preparation and adoption of local development plans.

Issues of concern and proposed amendments

The Localism Bill must deliver waste management infrastructure

5. Ministers must address the policy vacuum created by the abolition of Regional Strategies. The dynamics of waste planning differ from regional housing allocations, and whilst the preparation and adoption of Regional Strategies often proved to be a cumbersome process, the principle of providing a context for strategic planning was nonetheless sound.

6. A clear reference in the Bill to the National Planning Framework’s importance in determining planning applications could therefore be valuable, rather than leaving this to future guidance or secondary regulation. Local development plans should be required to conform with the National Planning Framework, and which should also be a material consideration in the planning process.

7. Proposed amendment

Clause 89

P60 line 38, at end insert -

( ) National Planning Framework

(1) the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 is amended as follows.

(2) At the end of clause 19 (2)(a) insert:

( ) The National Planning Framework

This probing amendment would clarify that the National Planning Framework should offer guiding principles for decisions by planning authorities, as Open Source Planning indicated that it would.

Shortcomings in the "duty to co-operate"

8. The Government’s objectives for sustainable management of waste rely upon a planning system which actively supports the promotion of recycling and waste recovery. Local authorities should prepare local development plans which enable waste materials to be transported to locations where they can be cost-effectively input into the manufacturing process. It is therefore entirely reasonable to expect the movement of waste across local authority boundaries and between regions, with waste transported to the nearest appropriate facility.

9. Local authorities must engage in strategic planning for waste management and the Bill’s "duty to co-operate" is no substitute to the strategic planning framework offered by Regional Strategies.

10. Proposed amendment

Clause 90

P61 line 16, at end insert –

( ) the formation of strategic planning partnerships,

This amendment would place an obligation on local authorities to engage in strategic planning, in which the design and location of new waste facilities maximises economies of scale, thereby delivering taxpayers’ value for money.

Review the impact of the Planning Act thresholds for qualifying national development

11. The localism agenda could potentially reduce further the rate of approval at the local authority level, leaving the Major Infrastructure Unit as a potentially attractive route for consent delivery.  A review of the impact of the Planning Act thresholds for qualifying waste infrastructure should allow an applicant to choose the most appropriate application route (i.e local or national) rather than potentially scaling a project to meet the thresholds.

12. Proposed amendment

Clause 111

P94 line 26, at end insert –

( ) The Secretary of State may direct the development to be treated as development within the powers of a local authority to determine.

Placing a "presumption in favour of sustainable development" on a statutory footing.

13. To prevent the re-assertion of local control on local planning decisions delaying or preventing delivery of key infrastructure, Open Source Planning suggested that a guiding principle of the planning system should be a presumption in favour of sustainable development. Such a key principle should be defined in primary legislation.

14. Proposed amendment

Clause 90

P61 line 20, at end insert –

( ) Ministers will prepare a list of infrastructure which meets the objectives of sustainable development.

( ) There is a presumption in favour of infrastructure defined in ( ) where an application for such development is brought forward in advance of an up to date local development plan.

This probing amendment would allow for expedient and efficient approval of applications for ‘green infrastructure’ which meets the Government’s objectives for sustainable development, including waste recovery infrastructure as defined in the 2008 Waste Framework Directive.

Exclude planning decisions from the scope of local referendums

15. Local referendums on planning decisions are unlikely to streamline the planning process or ensure that decisions on vital infrastructure are taken promptly. As currently drafted, the Bill potentially allows for 18 months to lapse before a referendum could be held on a decision, thereby potentially forcing a developer to appeal against non-determination.

16. Proposed amendment

Clause 44

P31 line 31, at end insert –

( ) The fifth ground is decisions made by the authority on applications for planning consent.

Statutory timeframes for plan preparation

17. For infrastructure related to local authority waste contracts to be provided it needs to be in the development plan: otherwise development proposals constitute a ‘departure from the plan’ and face lengthy delays through committee referrals, inquiries and appeals.

18. H owever , there is little incentive for local authorities to expedite preparation o f waste development frameworks: t here is no statutory obligation to progress plans quickly and no obvious powers for the Secretary of State to intervene.

19. Proposed amendment

Clause 92

Page 62 line 23, at end insert –

( ) For section 15(7)(c) (local development scheme) after "effect" insert–

( ) the statutory timetable for the preparation and adoption of documents in the scheme.

This is a probing amendment asking the Government propose statutory time limits for the preparation and adoption of development plans contained within a local authority’ s local development scheme.

January 2011