The way your community will look in the future and even your chances of extending your own home are about to get a lot more local in the near future. The Coalition’s Localism Bill will witness the biggest change in planning policy since the introduction of the Planning Act after the Second World War. It is all part of David Cameron’s idea of the Big Society that has been in the news this month and it will decide how you will be able to develop your home, or not as the case may be.
The main idea is to shift power away from the councils into the community which Planning Minister Gregg Clark thinks will be a good thing. As it will allow people within their local community to decide how their home town will look in the future. For the homeowner it means that you could be part of your neighbourhood group that decided on applications, such as if new homes are going to be built then you might be able to negotiate a financial incentive in return for the community. If you want to extend your home then you may be able to do so without applying as it may have already been pre-determined by your neighbourhood.
It all comes under the Community Right to Build part of the Bill, such as being able to build your own homes on designated land that will kept in trust for the benefit of the local community. Grant Schapps, Housing Minister, explains that these community led developments will not need planning permission but gain public support, you will need more than half of the local referendums support to get the go ahead. Some council’s are already in favour of it; West Dorset District Council is one.
Many feel that the old planning system is too complex and were too slow to act. Rather than working with communities, they were told what would be built around them and many felt that overdevelopment was becoming a serious problem in their area. So now neighbourhoods will be able to present Neighbourhood plans that will set out how your community will develop, it is then put to the local community for voting in a referendum and if it gets a majority vote then it is passed as policy. So this Neighbourhood Plan will then supersede any of your local council’s plans and housing targets. If you want to build on agricultural land and your neighbours allow it then it will go ahead. Neighbourhood Development Orders will be for specific development such as extensions to homes, these can be carried out without planning permission, on the other hand there could be a blanket ban put on extensions too so that they are not allowed at all.
Local people feel that the Localism Bill is appealing as they welcome decision making being returned to them. Most recognise the need for housing within the community as their children need somewhere affordable to live when they grow older but any development needs to be sustainable and will have realised the community’s needs. However critics of the Bill have said that Britain will become a Nimby (Not In My Back Yard) society if this scheme goes ahead. 58% of people questioned in a recent YouGov poll believed that Britain needed more housing but only 50% wanted these very homes built within their immediate neighbourhood, this was down 8% from 2007. So as a result rural villages may not have any housing built there resulting in village life being killed off with the closing of local pubs, post offices and schools but this was according to a report by the Rural Coalition. They were made up of landowners, conservationists and councils.
So if the Localism Bill is to become a success then progressive thinking has to come to the fore rather than a Nimby instinct otherwise the housing shortage in this country will become a disaster.