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RTPI and Civic Voice join forces to promote key neighbourhood planning amendment

05 July 2011

Civic Voice and the RTPI have suggested an amendment to the Localism Bill to ensure a neighbourhood planning forum cannot focus solely on just one aspect - promoting business in an area.

The amendment has the support of Baroness Whittaker and is set to be considered this week.

Civic Voice Director Tony Burton, said:

"Business has an important role in planning the future but it should never be at the expense of the community's quality of life or the health of the environment. The Localism Bill needs to change if it is to live up to its ambitions of a power shift which will put communities in control."

Trudi Elliott, RTPI Chief Executive, said:

\"We hope ministers will think again and respond positively so that local people genuinely feel able to influence the places where they live and work and do not find that their neighbourhood plan is being driven solely by the needs of businesses.\"

Civic Voice and the RTPI have called on peers to support the Whittaker amendment so that the original broad purpose for neighbourhood forums is reintroduced into the Bill.

Both Civic Voice and the RTPI, who are strong supporters of neighbourhood planning,  are concerned that a late Government amendment to Schedule 9 of the Localism Bill in the House of Commons will, if unaltered, have a serious effect what was intended to be a comprehensive approach to effective and proper planning and, in particular, the nature of neighbourhood plans. The purpose of planning, as consistently emphasised in Government guidance and statements, is to address the economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development.  This clause, as amended, runs entirely counter to that by encouraging a type of planning which focuses solely on just one aspect - promoting business.

Schedule 9, 61F (5) [page 306, line 17] was amended  in the House of Commons to read:
(5) A local planning authority may designate an organisation or body as a neighbourhood forum if the authority are satisfied that it meets the following conditions—
(a) it is established expressly for either or both of the following purposes—
(i) furthering the social, economic and environmental well-being of individuals living, or wanting to live, in an area that consists of or includes the neighbourhood area concerned,
(ii) promoting the carrying on of trades, professions or other businesses in such an area.

Civic Voice and the RTPI are concerned that the inclusion of the phrase 'either or both' in (a) means that a Neighbourhood Forum may be set up for – and, thus, a neighbourhood plan done purely for - 'promoting the carrying on of trades, professions or other businesses in such an area' rather than being required to take into account wider 'social, economic and environmental well-being'.

Amendment 148AZZC tabled by Baroness Whitaker

Page 306, leave out lines 20 to 27 and insert—
\"(a) it is established expressly for the purpose of furthering the social, economic and environmental well-being of individuals living, working, or wanting to live, in an area that consists of or includes the neighbourhood area concerned, including, if relevant, promoting the carrying on of trades, professions or other businesses in such an area,\"