Localism Bill

MEMORANDUM SUBMITTED BY the Institute of historic BuIlding conservation (L 50)

1. The Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) is the professional body for built and historic environment conservation specialists. See www.ihbc.org.uk .

2. Research already confirms that local communities place great value on their local heritage, and benefit economically from it.  Caring for our heritage preserves the unique local identity of places, while also supporting local businesses, from construction to tourism.  IHBC members work closely with local communities, householders, businesses, developers, investors and others to help adapt heritage assets to modern needs. Our members cannot operate without a local agenda.

3. On the detail of the Localism Bill, the IHBC’s position is as follows:

· Neighbourhood plans are strongly supported in principle, but much depends on the detail. Access to independent professional support, advice and skills is essential to engage effectively ALL interests in the community, not just the most vocal.  True empowerment demands access to genuine support and real resources.

· However allowing neighbourhood planning to bypass a process that helps care for our heritage of listed buildings and conservation areas disregards the national interest in them. The provisions (Sched. 12, paras 22-24) are fundamentally at odds with Localism as they can facilitate the destruction of cherished local identity.

· Safeguards are required to make sure that ALL local people can have their say, ensuring that vulnerable people are heard.  For example unrepresentative and articulate people could pursue their own self-interests through neighbourhood plans, local development orders and the community right to build, bypassing systems that ensure that people can get involved and have their interests considered. In low-income areas unscrupulous developers could fund neighbourhood planning on the back of support for ‘bad neighbour’ developments, dividing communities and obstructing economic recovery.

· Where local referenda take place, communities need full access to the range of support, information and advice normally available to local planning authorities (highways, health, design, heritage, etc. ).

The community infrastructure levy (CIL) is proposed to fund the delivery of neighbourhood plan proposals. In underperforming areas, little money could be raised through CIL. This clearly needs to be addressed. Localism should not be something for more prosperous areas only.

January 2011