Localism Bill

Memorandum submitted by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) (L 31)

RICS aims to develop policies and initiatives to deliver a vibrant and sustainable property sector. RICS cautiously welcomes the Bill and will seek to ensure that the spirit of the Bill is reflected in its implementation.

RICS supports workable ways of streamlining the planning system by giving certain planning responsibilities over to local communities. The acid test of localism will be whether greater local involvement will provide enough housing and commercial property for communities and businesses to thrive. The process must promote certainty for investors and developers to enable them to make long-term financial decisions on infrastructure and housing.

RICS believes it is essential that the measures contained in the Bill on the localisation of decision making and the removal of higher tier targets still have strong linkages with the Government’s over-arching sustainability and economic growth priorities.

Key points:

· The planning process must be accessible and empower all people to shape and own their neighbourhoods. RICS has established the independent Land and Society Commission to examine how best to empower all communities to fully embrace their emerging land and property roles

· Momentum must be maintained in the planning and development system ahead of Royal Assent. RICS, with the LGA and POS, have held a series of nationwide workshops to gather best practice and evidence and will be sharing findings with Government shortly.

· Mechanisms must be put in place to ensure that the designation of assets of community value and the proposed five year moratorium on their disposal are not used negatively to block future development

· To aid the production and scrutiny of neighbourhood plans RICS proposes that the existing cross professional resource - Expert Advisors in the Planning Service (EAPS) [1] - should be used

· Embedding mediation throughout the planning process in the Bill as a mechanism to solve potential disputes could help maintain forward momentum in the planning and development system. RICS Planning and Environmental Mediation Service provides a cross-professional panel of expert mediators and their use provides transparency, speed and clarity to the application process.

Neighbourhood Planning and Community Rights: Part 4, Chapter 3 and Part 5, Chapter 3

Care must be taken not to view neighbourhood plans in isolation. A holistic view must be taken alongside Neighbourhood Development Orders, Local Plans and strategic plans.

RICS notes that there is no mention of the role of business in the Bill’s definition of community. RICS believes that businesses need to be empowered to play a key role in neighbourhood planning and a minimum of a ‘duty to consult’ business should be included in the Bill.

Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL): Part 5, Chapter 4

RICS welcomes the move to ensure neighbourhoods receive a proportion of CIL. RICS believes that CIL should be locally variable and local authorities should be encouraged and empowered to set different levels of tariff for different uses and different parts of their areas. The Land and Society Commission will be examining the impacts of CIL on communities and making recommendations in due course.

Housing: Part 6

RICS welcomes the requirements for every local housing authority to publish a tenancy strategy and to offer flexible tenancies for social tenants.  This will contribute to a vibrant private rented sector which is in everyone’s interest.

However, RICS is concerned that measures within the Bill removing the duty on local housing authorities to provide temporary accommodation so removing the right of homeless people to refuse private sector housing, coupled with the proposed changes to housing benefit may increase levels of homelessness and place additional pressure on services dealing with this problem.  Care must be taken to ensure that the measures in the Bill coupled with the changes to housing benefit, particularly the proposed linking of housing benefit with Job Seekers Allowance,  do not lead to instability in the housing market and the private rented sector.

RICS welcomes the abolition of Home Information Packs.

London: Part 7

RICS welcomes the devolution of powers to the Greater London Authority, the London boroughs and the Mayor, which will give Londoners greater control over their communities. Care must be taken to ensure that Neighbourhood Plans are fully aligned with the London Plan and the Borough LDFs. As the only area to retain a statutory regional plan, the GLA and the boroughs must co-ordinate closely with local authorities across adjacent regions.

New housing is essential to meet London’s acute housing need and to grow London’s economy. Neighbourhood plans must ensure that the Mayor’s housing targets are delivered.

Related issues outside the Bill

Maintaining momentum in the planning and development sector

Establishment of the Infrastructure Planning Unit

RICS believes that there is a need to handle major national infrastructure applications in an efficient yet rigorous manner. Key decisions on major infrastructure and associated development must be taken within reasonable timeframes to ensure the UK remains competitive globally.

RICS welcomes the establishment of the IPU but urges the Government to deliver;

· A timetable for the delivery of the remaining National Policy Statements

· A timetable for Ministerial decisions in line with that to which the former IPC was required to meet

Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs)

RICS welcomes the establishment of LEPs and the linking up of the public and private sectors. RICS has been engaging with many of the emerging LEPs and will be looking to support the integration of land and property policy into their key objectives as an essential factor underpinning economic growth. RICS is considering ways to support and promote best practice among LEPs and will be discussing this further with a number of them.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is the world’s largest organisation for professionals in property, land, construction and related environmental issues. RICS members are involved in every aspect of the built and natural environment, including planning and development, valuation, managing public and private sector assets and investment advice, acting for major urban and rural property owners and occupiers, and planning and delivery infrastructure projects.

RICS regulates and maintains the professional standards of over 91,000 qualified members (FRICS, MRICS and AssocRICS) and over 50,000 trainee and student members. It regulates and promotes the work of these property professionals throughout 146 countries. RICS is governed by a Royal Charter which requires it to act in the public interest offering independent and apolitical expert advice.


[1] Expert Advisors in Planning Service (EAPS)

[1]

[1] EAPS is a service which is designed to provide expertise and advice on specialist issues which arise in the examination of local authority development plans, which go beyond the individual expertise of planning inspectors.

[1]

[1] The administration of appointments of expert advisors through EAPS is managed by RICS. Under the scheme RICS appoints experts who support the work of Planning Inspectors on major casework and local development plan work in England and Wales . The scheme is designed to provide access to expertise on other planning related procedures, for example it can provide expert advisers in relation to the examination of the schedules of charges for Community Infrastructure Levy.

[1]

[1] EAPS is regulated by a board whose members are drawn from a range of professions involved in the planning sector, including the Planning Officers Society and the Planning Inspectorate. The Board is chaired by a Queens Council and member of the Planning and Environment Bar Association. EAPS was jointly conceived by RICS and the RTPI.

[1]

[1] The appointments service is managed by RICS Dispute Resolution Services, which has establishing an initial pool of expert advisers to represent a wide cross-section of skills knowledge and experience who can advise in one or more of the following areas:

[1]

[1] • Development Economics (including valuation)

[1] • Minerals

[1] • Waste

[1] • Renewable Energy

[1]

[1] The EAPS panel can be added to as and when required. Expert advisers who are part of EAPS are required to demonstrate they are leaders in their field. They are professionally qualified and have significant experience at a senior level in their profession. They are members of a recognised professional body (e.g. RICS, RTPI, PEBA, RIBA, ICE, IHT and Landscape Institute).

[1]

[1] January 2011