Growth and Infrastructure Bill

Memorandum submitted by National Association of Local Councils (GIB 66)

1. I am writing in response with written evidence to the Growth and Infrastructure Bill Public Bill Committee on behalf of the National Association of Local Councils (NALC).

2. As you know, the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) is the nationally recognised membership and support organisation representing the interests of around 9,000 parish councils and many parish meetings in England.

3. The parish councils and parish meetings we support and represent serve electorates ranging from small rural communities to major cities, and raise a precept from the local community. Together, they can be identified as among the nation’s most influential grouping of grassroots opinion-formers. Over 15 million people live in communities served by our parish councils , around 35% of the population, whilst over 200 new parish councils have been created in the last 10 years.

4. Parish councils and parish meetings work towards improving community well-being and providing better services at a local level. Their work falls into three main categories:

§ representing the local community;

§ delivering services to meet local needs; and

§ striving to improve quality of life in the community.

5. Through a range of powers, parish councils provide and maintain a variety of important and visible local services including allotments, bridleways, burial grounds, bus shelters, car parks, commons, community transport schemes, crime reduction measures, footpaths, leisure facilities, local youth projects, open spaces, public lavatories, planning, street cleaning, street lighting, tourism activities, traffic calming measures, village greens and litter bins.

6. NALC provides support and advice directly to our member councils through a network of county associations. Working with and for our member councils, we are actively involved in working with, and influencing, Government and other bodies at a national level .

7. Summary of Evidence The National Association is conditionally supportive of the Bill’s attempt to reduce delays in the planning system through various means, including the referral of certain major infrastructure projects to the Secretary of State to be determined within a twelve month time-table, rather than by local planning authorities. The National Association is also supportive in principle of wider use of the Electronic Communications Code to promote growth at the local level. The needs of in particular rural communities must be borne in mind during the process of stopping up and diverting highways. The needs of in particular rural communities must also be borne in mind in the process of stopping up and diverting public paths. The National Association strongly advocates the need for a reformed village green registration process building in the local consultation of residents for and against an open space being registered as a village green in their area.

8. Detailed Evidence – Planning Applications Direct To The Secretary of State The National Association’s position is that local planning authorities are not always best placed to make planning decisions governing their areas. This is a scale-able principle – i.e. local councils are obviously best placed to use neighbourhood planning powers to effect much more vicinity-oriented planning decisions at the grassroots level. However, as the National Association suggested in its earlier responses to Government consultations on Major Infrastructure projects – there are also some huge capital projects which local planning authorities are not equipped to make decisions on. So it is right that – in those latter circumstances, planning applications should be made direct to the Secretary of State – providing local councils have been consulted first. The National Association has 13 positions on planning matters (see Annex 1 attached), but the one most relevant here is that – whether planning applications are made direct to the Secretary of State or simply to local planning authorities, local councils deserve to be made statutory consultees on all planning matters.

9. Detailed Evidence The Need To Promote Growth Through The Electronic Communications Code The National Association is a supporter of the wider use of the Electronic Communications Code. Local councils are encouraged to use electronic communications to produce and disseminate their newsletters as far as possible to residents and have them available on web-sites. Local councils, through promotion of the Quality Parishes Scheme, are also encouraged to use e-mail and web-sites as far as possible, though there is a recognition based on clear realpolitik , that many smaller local councils (i.e. those with electorates of 5, 999 or less), still struggle due to lack of resources, to provide electronic communications and web-sites. (See Annex 2) The National Association also supports – especially in rural areas – the need for local councils to have the legal power to promote and manage community electronic communications networks, playing a role in growth.

10. Detailed Evidence – Stopping Up And Diversion Of Highways The National Association believes that the Government need to always consider the needs of residents in parished (usually rural) areas, before passing any legislation at all governing the stopping up and diversion of highways. Local councils are still not statutory consultees on all matters germaine to Traffic Commissioners – and they need to be (see Annex 3). The stopping up of certain highways running through rural areas would be and anyway is a huge inconvenience to all road users in that area. However, it would be unacceptable for local councils to not be statutory consultees on Traffic Commissioner decisions in a situation where more highways were to be diverted through rurally parished areas, at huge inconvenience to residents of those areas.

11. Detailed Evidence – Stopping Up And Diversion Of Public Paths The National Association believes that the Government need to always consider the needs of residents in parished (usually rural) areas, before passing any legislation at all governing the stopping up and diversion of public paths. The National Association responded to the DEFRA consultation on "The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature" in August, 2012 that we were supportive of any moves made by Government to make local consultation on public paths more inclusive and simple. Local councils need to be at the heart of any consultations conducted at the grassroots level to stop up and divert any public paths.

12. Detailed Evidence - Restrictions on Right to Register Land As Town Or Village Green

The National Association believes that the Government is right to place restrictions on the right to register land as a town or village green – under some circumstances. The Association has a specific policy position on lobbying to ensure that the registration process for village greens is fairer and more inclusive. In times past, some village greens have been registered as soon as residents have heard that a developer wished to develop on the land concerned. In others still, developers have made an application for planning permission to develop on land they heard was due to be registered as a village green – as soon as they heard this. So the final clauses in this Schedule of the Bill need to factor in the need for a more inclusive and broad consultation process at the grassroots level (see Annex 4).

December 2012

Annex 1 – National Association’s Positions On Planning Matters

Motion Number

Motion Topic/Theme Code

County Association/Forum Proposing

Motion Wording

Forum/ Date

of NALC

Agreement

Advised CALC Update Action

(And Date Advised)

Progress (If Applicable)

1

Section 106 Agreements – Enforcement (A)

Suffolk

That SALC should urge NALC to lobby Government and local government/local planning authorities to ensure that there is effective local enforcement around developers being held to account in adhering to Section 106 Agreements and planning conditions.

Policy Committee

21 April, 2009

C. Borg e-mailed Suffolk Association on 4/10/10 to confirm the level of priority the Association accords this issue currently, to see if there is any additional information which it could provide the National Association with in its lobbying efforts on this matter and whether local political contacts can be joined up with the national lobbying effort to progress the issue.

Matter raised in relevant meetings with Communities and Local Government during 2011 when officials were drafting relevant sections of the Localism Act. Ongoing.

2

Consultation on Section 106 Agreements (A)

Kent

In view of the increasing importance of Section 106 Agreements in major planning applications, local Town and Parish Councils should be meaningfully consulted on the provisions, new or renegotiated, of Section 106 Agreements prior to their being finalised and signed. The Kent Association calls upon the National Association to lobby for this policy to be adopted universally

Policy Committee

21 April, 2009

C Borg e-mailed the Kent Association on 19 October, 2010 requesting information on whether there were any pressing updates on this topic which the Kent Association wanted the National Association to pursue (either through national or local lobbying).

Ongoing

3

Planning Enforcement (A)

Kent

The Kent Association of Local Councils is extremely concerned at the length of time taken for effective enforcement action to be taken against breaches of planning control. KALC urges NALC to lobby Government to strengthen legislation to ensure that planning authorities are consistent in applying a robust policy to deal effectively and quickly with any breaches of planning control

Policy Committee

28 October, 2008

Kent Association e-mailed on 27 October, 2010 regarding an update to local and national lobbying tactics. A request was made for information on developments in Kent on this matter since October, 2010 (when the motion was passed); and names of possible MPs and local political contacts NALC can liaise with (with KALC) to progress outcomes with Communities and Local Government on this issue.

Ongoing

6

Planning and Mobile Masts (A)

Leicestershire and Rutland

The National Association is urged to campaign to change government policy on planning applications for mobile telephone masts to ensure that all heights of mast are subject to a full planning application and proper consultation with local parishes.

Annual General Meeting

Summer, 2005

E-mailed the County Association on 19/11/10 to confirm if there had been any policy developments on this matter since 2005 and for information on local policy contacts who could assist in progressing this matter nationally. No response received.

Victoria Pymm and Alan Jones raised this policy position with the Mobile Operators’ Association in a meeting on 24 February, 2012.

7

Planning Dimensions

(A)

Cheshire

That NALC press for it to be a requirement when submitting planning applications all plans should have full dimensions for all proposed buildings, including the height above ground level and the distance from the plot boundary .

Policy Committee

25 January, 2005

Confirmation sent by the Cheshire Association on 4 January 2011 that there has been no local action taken on this matter since January, 2005.

Subsequent communications from the Cheshire Association indicate that whilst there has been some improvement it remains patchy especially as far as contours are concerned. It is believed that the (local) Planning Department tend to go easy on developers in respect of the quality of planning applications.

Ongoing

8

Planning Maps (A)

Cambs.

That the National Association of Local Councils ask all Planning Authorities to include "Insert Maps" for all villages, regardless of whether or not they have been allocated development growth in the Local Plan or Local Development Framework. The delineation of the village envelope is an important tool in development control and in halting unacceptable encroachment into the countryside. A map based system is also more easily understood by the public. Relegating the "Insert Maps" of non-growth villages to Supplementary Planning Guidance is not an alternative as these have less weight in the planning process.

Policy Committee

28 January, 2004

The Cambs. Association was e-mailed on 14 January, 2011 to confirm whether there had been any developments on this subject since January, 2004 and to verify how the subject might be progressed if this was still a local priority in the county. No response was received so it is assumed that this issue has not progressed in Cambs. recently.

Ongoing

9

Green Planning Laws (A)

Suffolk    

That SALC should urge NALC to lobby Government to bring planning laws and guidance in line with Government policy by making it conditional for energy saving and carbon neutral measures to be included in all planning applications where relevant.

Policy Cttee . meeting 19 January, 2010    

The Suffolk Association was e-mailed on 25/1/11 regarding any updates that Association may have had on the matter of green planning laws locally in Suffolk since 19/1/11. No response was received from the Suffolk Association.

Matter raised in relevant meetings with Communities and Local Government during 2011 when officials were drafting relevant sections of the Localism Act. Ongoing.

10

Cross-Border Planning Applications (A)

Oxfordshire

That NALC amend its ‘Planning Policy in the First Tier Strategy’ (November 2006) so that the Government is also asked to amend planning legislation so that local planning authorities are required to consult or inform all local councils or parish meetings affected by planning applications, not just those in their own area; or, the affected neighbouring local planning authority is required to consult or inform the relevant local council or parish meeting.

Policy Committee

22 April, 2010

E-mailed the Oxfordshire Association on 8 February, 2011 but no response. Have assumed that we can still campaign on this matter nationally. Confirmed on 22 February, 2011 that there have been no local developments in Oxon. since safe passage of this motion at NALC.

Ongoing

11

Section 106 Expenditure (A)

Hants.

That when considering changes to planning legislation, the government gives parish councils the freedom to spend s.106 monies (developer’s contributions) on leisure and recreation facilities as they judge to be necessary.

Annual General Meeting

13 October, 2010    

No update received from the County Association by 8 March, 2011 so working assumption it was acceptable to continue to lobby nationally on the issue. General principle of local councils needing the freedom to spend s.106 monies (developer’s contributions) on leisure and recreation facilities as they judge to be necessary – communicated to CLG in the NALC response to its consultation on the New Homes Bonus (December, 2010).

Ongoing

12

Planning Permission (A)

Devon

Members of the Devon Association of Local Councils would ask NALC to bring the following serious matter to the attention of Government. It is clear that planning conditions imposed to allow grant of planning permission are not being enforced. This brings the planning system into disrepute, and creates real difficulties for new residents and existing communities. Government is requested to issue instructions to planning authorities to give the enforcement element of the planning system the resources and priority it should have. If the current system of self-regulation by developers is found not to be working, it should be replaced by a more stringent system which holds developers to account.

Annual General Meeting

13 October, 2010

No update received from the County Association by 8 March, 2011 so working assumption it was acceptable to continue to lobby nationally on the issue. Correspondence received from the Devon Association in April, 2011 asking NALC for an update. NALC wrote to the relevant CLG Minister in June, 2011 asking for a strengthened planning enforcement process.

Ongoing

Annex 2 – National Association’s Positions On Electronic Communications

Motion Number

Motion Topic/Theme Code

County Association/Forum Proposing

Motion Wording

Forum/ Date

of NALC

Agreement

Advised CALC Update Action

(And Date Advised)

Progress (If Applicable)

16

Electronic Communications Networks (A)

Northumberland

[The Northumberland Association of Local Councils requests] that NALC works with the Government and its agencies to give local councils the legal power to promote, contribute towards and / or run electronic communications networks and services, for the benefit of their local communities.

Policy Committee

8 November 2011 meeting

Ongoing

Ongoing. DEFRA had a discussion with the Policy and Development Manager by ‘phone on 13 April, 2012 and agreed to put BDUK in direct contact with him regarding Cumbria and North Yorkshire .

17

Electronic Communications Support Network (A)

Northumberland

[The Northumberland Association of Local Councils requests] that NALC works with DEFRA, ACRE, BDUK and other partners in principle to offer support to local councils who are seeking to develop Broadband improvements in their communities.

Policy Committee

8 November 2011 meeting

Ongoing

Ongoing. DEFRA had a discussion with the Policy and Development Manager by ‘phone on 13 April, 2012 and agreed to put BDUK in direct contact with him regarding Cumbria and North Yorkshire .

Annex 3 – National Association’s Policy Position On Traffic Commissioners

Motion Number

Motion Topic/Theme Code

County Association/Forum Proposing

Motion Wording

Forum/ Date

of NALC

Agreement

Advised CALC Update Action

(And Date Advised)

Progress (If Applicable)

25

Traffic Commissioners (B)

Cheshire

That NALC should lobby MPs, civil servants and government to change the law relating to Traffic Commissioners, making the first tier statutory consultees .

Annual General Meeting

8 October, 2008

Advised by the Cheshire Association on 2 March, 2011 that there had been no developments locally on this matter since the passage of the motion in 2008.

This matter has been raised in principle at a meeting with Lord Lea at the House of Lords in September, 2011. Ongoing .

Annex 4 – National Association’s Policy Position On Village Green Registration

Motion Number

Motion Topic/Theme Code

County Association/Forum Proposing

Motion Wording

Forum/ Date

of NALC

Agreement

Advised CALC Update Action

(And Date Advised)

Progress (If Applicable)

52

Village Green Registration (E)

Devon

That the village green registration application process does not take account of the views and requirements of all parts of the community; that NALC presses for a more rounded application process, whereby there is a legal mechanism in place, which would take account of the views of people who do not want an area of land to be registered as a Green, as well as the views of the group who have made the application; and that NALC press Government for a review of the village green registration process to take account of all the views of local people.

Annual General Meeting

19 October, 2011

Ongoing

Ongoing

Prepared 10th December 2012