Written evidence from the Local Government
Association (LGA) (ARSS 142)|
The Local Government Group has long argued that local
people, through their directly-elected councils, should have the
power to shape their neighbourhoods, guide local development and
growth, and have direct access to the benefits that come from
new housing and other developments. The Group therefore supported
the principles behind "Open Source Planning" and has
welcomed the Government's movements away from regionalised planning
targets towards a framework which will allow local people increased
say in their local area.
However, there are many unanswered questions on the
precise details of the planning system that will replace the now-abolished
Regional Spatial Strategies, and how the development of new homes
will be encouraged. The Local Government Group is keen to work
closely with the Government now on a new system that will allow
local people to take charge of their areas while ensuring democratic
accountability, strategic direction and expertise through local
The New Homes Bonus concept is attractive, though
further information on the practicalities of how this will work
is needed. On regional planning, Local Enterprise Partnerships
can provide a powerful mechanism for strategic direction across
local authority boundaries, but they must have the freedoms and
flexibilities to cover the full range of inter-linked issues that
underpin local economic performance, including planning.
1. The LGA is a voluntary membership body and
our 422 member authorities cover every part of England and Wales.
Together they represent over 50 million people and spend around
£113 billion a year on local services. They include county
councils, metropolitan district councils, English unitary authorities,
London boroughs and shire district councils, along with fire authorities,
police authorities, national park authorities and integrated transport
2. The LG Group supported the principles behind
the Conservative Party's "Open Source Planning" document,
published in February 2010. The proposals within the document
reflect the LGA's fundamental principles that people should have
the power to shape the places in which they live, that councils
are uniquely positioned as the accountable public body to plan
for their communities, and that unlocking councils' potential
to play a leadership role is critical to the delivery of housing
and other development.
3. We are keen to ensure that the Government's
programme for planning reform genuinely works from the bottom
up, with local councils and communities collaborating and setting
out their vision and plans.
4. It is vitally important that the Government
recognises that local authorities have been involved in democratically
accountable local decision-making for many years, and have the
local knowledge and the expertise to act as local leaders in drawing
up plans and taking into account the needs of their entire areas.
5. It is therefore important to for the sector
to understand, as soon as possible, what new approaches will be
required of them as a result of the Government's new planning
system, over and above existing practice. This will allow councils
to avoid creating costly duplication or wasting effort.
6. Strong local plans will set out the needs
of communities and local economies, while providing the clarity
and clarity that the development industry needs to invest in an
7. The Government has acted quickly on its commitment
to reform the planning system to bring decisions on development
closer to the communities they affect. Local government has long
campaigned for an end to prescriptive central policy on planning
which has prevented councils from creating and delivering local
visions for how their places should develop.
8. The abolition of regional house building gives
new opportunities to plan proactively and make decisions according
to communities' interests and needs.
9. The Government has proposed replacing housing
targets and the pre-existing Housing and Planning Delivery Grant
with the New Homes Bonus, an incentive that would match the increase
a council receives in council tax receipts for each additional
house built for six years (along with a similar proposal for business
rates for non residential development). The incentive would be
funded through top-slicing general grant funding to local authorities.
10. Councils support this idea of incentives
in principle. Ensuring that the infrastructure, facilities and
services will be available to support new housing will help to
make new development acceptable to communities. The proposed financial
incentives could assist, but it is important that they are sufficient
to bring forward the scale of housing development needed in many
11. We have several concerns about how the New
Homes Bonus will work in practice:
(i) As it is funded from the Revenue Support
Grant (RSG), those areas that build less than the national average
will see reductions in their grant funding to fund incentive payments
for those areas building higher than average numbers of homes.
It is vital that the incentives work in all areas of the country,
including those areas where poor quality or unwanted housing needs
to be replaced to stimulate demand.
(ii) For the incentives to be effective, councils
will need certainty about how much they can expect to gain, but
this will depend on understanding the numbers of homes being built
in all areas of the country.
(iii) In addition, it is unclear how the incentive
will be calculated on an annual basis if it is funded from a four
year grant settlement.
(iv) The incentives must be put in place quickly
and be capable of responding to different housing market conditions
if they are to be effective in different local areas.
(v) Most importantly, the New Homes Bonus should
be implemented as part of a coherent package of incentives incorporating
local development tariffs and local government's proposals for
joining up capital and revenue funding through place-based budgets,
so that development brings benefits to communities.
12. The LG Group supports the principle of responsibility
and leadership from the bottom up for "larger than local"
planning. Central government, however, will need to ensure councils
have all the powers, levers and resources they need to plan strategically
and in partnership where appropriatethrough Local Enterprise
Partnerships (LEPs) or other partnership arrangements
13. It is vital that Local Enterprise Partnerships
(LEPs) are flexible enough to suit other self-determined sub regional
partnership arrangements. LEPs should be as broad as councils
and local businesses want them to be. Many areas want their LEP
to cover the full range of inter-linked issues that underpin local
economic performance such as local transport provision and infrastructure
investment, housing, regeneration, business support and advice
(including better regulation), skills and employment, training
provision, or support for individual sectors such as tourism.
This may be through direct budget-holding and decision-making,
or through taking a strategic role and influencing decisions by
councils, businesses and other agencies.
14. We are already undertaking work with the
Planning Advisory Service and the Planning Officers' Society on
projects to share examples of collective, cross boundary plan-making
and to disseminate examples of good local plans.
15. The Government's approach to waste planning
suggests communities should take responsibility for managing their
16. Since the 1990s Waste Technical Advisory
Bodies (TABs) have supplied waste planning authorities with data
on the need for infrastructure facilities, offering an essential
17. However with the end of Regional Spatial
Strategies (RSS), which TABs used as an integral part of their
work, there is now a question as to how planning authorities will
have available strategic advice to make informed decisions about
the provision of waste facilities, potentially threatening the
ability to achieve recycling and landfill targets. Local Enterprise
Partnerships could provide this role, but these will not be in
place until 2012 and it is for constituent councils to decide
18. The POS has suggested that the simplest way
would be to continue with the TAB system, with reporting lines
directed to the constituent planning authorities, working together
through LEPs or other joint arrangements where appropriate. This
they argue would save money and allow for better interaction with
19. The Local Government Group believes the POS
model should be considered, as must any innovative ways developed
by authorities to access information previously held regionally.
Planning for waste infrastructure requires both strategic and
local insight, and local authorities must be empowered with the
ability to offer both.
20. There must be a smooth transition of ownership
of valuable regional spatial information. If this process is not
managed effectively it could have a knock-on effect on local developments,
on community engagement, and infrastructure plans.
21. Councils have already developed innovative
ways to access information that was previously held at the regional
level. For example, South West Councils has taken steps to ensure
that the evidence base behind the draft RSS, for which the Assembly
(as Regional Planning Body) and South West Leaders' Board/SW Councils
was responsible, is preserved. Both the Assembly and South West
Councils' websites have had a snapshot taken of them by the British
Library/National Web Archive. This ensures that the pages and
their content are preserved for future use.
22. The LG Group could offer to develop its long-term
planning performance and support programmes for local government.
This offer could include supporting local access to, and selective
maintenance of, evidence and research previously held at the regional
or national level.