Sustainable Development in the Localism Bill - Environmental Audit Committee Contents

The Localism Bill

1. The Localism Bill will devolve powers to councils and neighbourhoods and aims to give local communities more control over housing and planning decisions. It includes measures to reform the planning system, the provision of housing and a range of local authority governance issues. The Bill will abolish Regional Spatial Strategies (which set a regional-level planning framework for England) and will establish neighbourhood plans and neighbourhood development orders, by which it is intended that communities will be able to influence council policies and development in their neighbourhoods.[1]

2. The Government intends to introduce a 'presumption in favour of sustainable development' as set out in the Conservative Party's 2010 Green Paper 'Open Source Planning' and then in the Coalition Agreement.[2] The presumption is that:

[...] individuals and businesses have the right to build homes and other local buildings provided that they conform to national environmental, architectural, economic and social standards, conform with the local plan, and pay a tariff that compensates the community for loss of amenity and costs of additional infrastructure.[3]

The presumption does not feature in the Localism Bill, although it will be included in a new overarching Government planning policy document, the National Planning Policy Framework.

3. The Communities and Local Government Committee has undertaken inquires on the Government's localism agenda and the abolition of regional spatial strategies.[4] Both inquiries have received evidence about potential adverse impacts from the Government's planning proposals on the environment.[5] The Localism Bill Committee, which finished its consideration of the Bill on 10 March, received similar evidence that highlighted problems with the accessibility and fairness of the proposed neighbourhood planning process and the presumption in favour of sustainable development.[6] An opposition amendment was debated in the Localism Bill Committee to address these concerns. The amendment was withdrawn following a Government commitment to address these issues at a later stage.[7]

4. In our First Report of this Session we committed ourselves to scrutinising the extent to which sustainable development is embedded in the policy making of all departments across Government. Subsequently, in Mainstreaming Sustainable Development, the Government has set out its vision of how it will do this, and this short inquiry is an early test of this.[8]

5. In light of the scope of the inquiry by the Communities and Local Government Committee and the evidence received by the Localism Bill Committee, we took evidence specifically on the planning issues affecting local government. On 16 February we took evidence from Friends of the Earth, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Town and Country Planning Association and officials from the Department for Communities and Local Government on the extent to which sustainable development is embedded in the Government's planning reforms in the Localism Bill.[9] We would like to thank all those who gave evidence.

1   Localism Bill [Bill 126 (2010-11)] Back

2   HM Government, The Coalition: our programme for government, May 2010 Back

3   Conservative Party, Open source planning, 2010 Back

4   Communities and Local Government Committee inquiries into Localism and Abolition of regional spatial strategies  Back

5   Written evidence for Communities and Local Government inquiries into Localism and Abolition of regional spatial strategies  Back

6   The associated memoranda are available on the Localism Bill Parliament website:

7   PBC Deb, Localism Bill, 15 February 2011 Back

8   Defra, Mainstreaming Sustainable Development, February 2011 Back

9   Ev 1-21 Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 22 March 2011