Localism Bill

Memorandum submitted by Vivien Green (L 139)

Decentralisation and Localism Bill

I am writing to you as a Town Planner and corporate member of the Royal Town Planning Institute. Since 1975 I have worked in the fields of development control and planning enforcement both as a Development Control Manager in Local Government and now running a Town Planning Consultancy. I also train planners and enforcement officers throughout the UK and have been teaching the Certificate in Planning Enforcement Studies developed in association with the University of Cambridge since 1997. I have the privilege of being the Honorary Principal Member of the National Association of Enforcement Officers (NAPE) in recognition of my work in the field of enforcement.    


Having considered the relevant clauses in the Planning and Enforcement Chapters of the Decentralisation and Localism Bill (and importantly the details in the Schedules), it is clear that when it becomes law it will change some fundamental tenets of the planning system. However, dealing with complaints about unauthorised development/ Permitted Developments limits , failure to comply with approved plans and conditions (whoever granted the permission/made the development order) , and ultimately the taking of enforcement action will remain firmly with the Local Planning Authority (LPA). 


Open Source Planning was clear "that the greater autonomy offered by the presumption in favour of sustainable development is not abused."  All LPAs agree with this concern . However a key test for "localism" will not only be how well LPAs deal with blatant breaches of control but also how well they ensure that development is delivered in accordance with the approved plans and conditions. In too many LPAs "enforcement" is a reactive, environmental complaint mediation service and formal enforcement action is a last resort. This approach does not maintain the integrity of the planning system – it is just a fire fighting exercise to a greater or lesser degree. Only LPAs who undertake compliance monitoring as well as making full use of the

enforcement "toolkit", stand a chance of claiming to be effective and using their

resources efficiently ie "doing more with less".


What is needed in the Bill is a power to enable LPAs to engender a "Compliance

Culture" ie to stop people being "gormless" and to catch the "greedy" early on. All developers need to realise they have to obey the rules, and if in doubt should ask , because there are strong powers which LPAs will use when the rules are "broken". "Localism" needs to bring about a fundamental realignment of attitudes and perceptions. An emphasis on "delivery" of what the LPA or community approved, not a system that reacts to complaints when things have already started to go wrong.

What  will facilitate this sea change is a statutory requirement in the Localism Bill for a developer to notify the LPA that they are about to start development. Checks can then be made: on pre-commencement conditions and subsequently that development is proceeding in accordance with approved plans. This should not be particularly onerous or costly. It is a mandatory requirement under the Building Regulations and some LPAs already operate relatively successful voluntary schemes. These essential powers were included in the Planning (Scotland) etc Act 2006 after lobbying by Enforcement Officers and are already beginning to shape a Compliance Culture. 


A drafted of the clause that is required (based on the Scottish model) with a consequent amendment to what constitutes a breach of Planning Control in s171A of the Town Country Planning Act 1990 would read:


      Notification of initiation of development

(1)   A person who intends to carry out development for which express planning permission has been granted by the LPA or under a community right to build order has been made, must as soon as practicable after deciding on a date on which to initiate the development, and in any event 21 days before commencing the development, give notice to the local planning authority as to that date.

(2)   In granting express planning permission or making a community right to build order for the carrying out of any development of land, the notice shall direct the attention of the applicant to requirements of subsection (1) and of s171A of the Act with regard to breaches of planning control


Amendment to s171A – Expressions used in connection with enforcement

(1)   In section s171A of the Act after para (1)(b) insert:


(c)   initiating development without giving notice in accordance with section X of this Act constitutes a breach of planning control. 


If you agree with these comments I hope you will do all that is within your powers to lobby for their inclusion in the Decentralisation and Localism Bill as it passes through Parliament.

February 2011