Localism Bill

Memorandum submitted by the Environmental Law Foundation (L 138)

STRATEGIC PLANNING

Reason for amendments :

We fully support the Wildlife & Countryside Link (WCL) (as part of the Greenest Planning Ever Coalition) proposed amendments under the heading of ‘Strategic Planning’. However, we would further suggest that the duty to co-operate also be placed directly on neighbourhood forums and parish councils, both of which will have a significant impact within the planning process. Without this duty to co-operate there would be a practical lacuna in the law: while local authorities would be required to co-operate, the Act would exempt more local decision-making bodies whose co-operation may be invaluable; both in terms of what they might offer, and in terms of what they might request from local authorities or other prescribed bodies (Amendment 1).

Amendments

Part 5 Planning, Chapter 1 Plans and Strategies

Amendment 1

Clause 90, p 61, line 5, substitute (1)(b) of new clause 33A in the original bill (or subclause (1)(c) of the WCL amended bill) with:

" (b) a marine planning authority,

(c) a body, or other person, that is prescribed or of a prescribed description, or

(d) a body, or other person, that is authorised by 61F of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to act in relation to a neighbourhood area."

Notes :

The E.L.F. is recognised as the leading charity offering free planning and environmental advice to local community groups nationwide. Its advisory services were rated by a 2010 Legal Services Commission audit as ‘exemplary’.

From its inception in 1992 the organisation has supported local communities, to have a strong voice in local decision making, recognising that the current planning system is insufficiently inclusive of their needs and values. E.L.F. provides the specialist advice needed by communities to represent their views effectively or take necessary action on planning decisions through its unique national network of 250 legal and technical experts.

NEIGHBOURHOOD PLANNING

The Localism Bill seeks to stimulate participation on a local level in the planning process, through neighbourhood forums: a move which should be welcomed and supported. However, some of the formal detail relating to the designation of neighbourhood forums, and how they contribute to the planning system, is potentially problematic. For that reason, we propose that the local authority be required to remove the designation from such an organisation in certain circumstances, namely, when they no longer meet the conditions for eligibility (Amendments 2, 3 and 4). Furthermore, there is at this stage no provision to ensure that neighbourhood forums be representative of their membership, neither generally nor with regard to their functions in relation to neighbourhood development plans and neighbourhood development orders. We submit that such a requirement should be specified in the statute (Amendment 1), without precluding the possibility of further provision in regulations, as provided for in the proposed new Schedule 4B to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

Amendments

Schedule 9 Neighbourhood Planning, Part 1 Neighbourhood Development Orders

Amendment 1

Part 1 of Schedule 9, at p 290 line 25, substitute subsection (5)(c) and (d) of new clause 61F with:

" (c) there are at least 3 members of the organisation or body who must be unrelated to each other and each of whom lives in separate households in the neighbourhood area concerned,

(d) where the organisation or body is made up of 5 members or more then more than half of those members must be unrelated to each other and must live separate households in the neighbourhood area concerned,

(e) the organisation or body has a written constitution, and

(f) the written constitution of the organisation provides that the organisation’s members will have the opportunity to participate directly and decisively in the exercise of the statutory functions of a neighbourhood forum."

Amendment 2

Part 1 of Schedule 9, at p290 line 40, substitute subsection (8) and (8)(a) with:

"(8A) A designation -

(a) must be withdrawn by a local authority where the local authority is no longer satisfied that the organisation still meets the conditions which it was previously required to meet in order to be designated, whether by virtue of subsection (5) or by virtue of subsection (6)."

Amendment 3

Part 1 of Schedule 9, at p290 after line 48, insert after subsection (8A) as proposed above:

" (8B) where a local authority decides to withdraw the designation of neighbourhood forum under subsection (8A)(a) above, it must give to that organisation reasons for its decision."

Amendment 4

Part 1 of Schedule 9, at p290 after line 39, insert before subsection (8A) as proposed above:

" (7A) where a local authority designates an organisation a neighbourhood forum under subsection (5) or (6), it must take reasonable steps to inform all of the residents of that neighbourhood area of its decision regarding the designation and of the contact details of that organisation."

Notes :

The E.L.F. is recognised as the leading charity offering free planning and environmental advice to local community groups nationwide. Its advisory services were rated by a 2010 Legal Services Commission audit as ‘exemplary’.

From its inception in 1992 the organisation has supported local communities, to have a strong voice in local decision making, recognising that the current planning system is insufficiently inclusive of their needs and values. E.L.F. provides the specialist advice needed by communities to represent their views effectively or take necessary action on planning decisions through its unique national network of 250 legal and technical experts.

February 2011