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Localism Bill gets Royal Assent but much still to do to secure a workable planning system

15 November 2011

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has supported the underlying objectives of the Localism Bill and very much welcomed the central role of planning at the heart of the localism agenda. But we believe the new Localism Act will fail to deliver a workable planning system unless a number of key issues are resolved including robust transition arrangements, changes to the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the Local Planning Regulations and also proper resourcing for the new planning system.

Richard SummersRichard Summers, RTPI President, said:

"We congratulate Ministers on improving the Localism Bill and listening to some of our suggestions and we appreciate the constructive way they have engaged with us on some of our concerns.  But the real test of the Localism Act will be its implementation and the resources made available to enable the planning system to deliver it."

"Many issues still need to be clarified, some by legal challenge and others through guidance, but the key issue will be to reduce the continuing uncertainty, cost and delay for the planning system and the development industry."

Key outstanding issues include:

The RTPI has been at the forefront of identifying the need for transition arrangements by promoting two amendments to the Localism Bill in the House of Lords. The changes to the planning system introduced by the Localism Act and the draft NPPF are far reaching and will significantly affect the operation of the planning system. There is the need for agreement to be reached on the arrangements for safeguarding existing local plans and arrangements and on a planned period during which local authorities, the public and the development industry can learn to work with the new regime and implement it in the most effective way.

The RTPI will continue the debate on strategic planning and will support the development of effective practice even though the "duty to cooperate" has been significantly strengthened. We are recommending that the Local Planning Regulations should extend the "duty to consult" to include the infrastructure providers that are vital to future growth.

The RTPI is concerned that the NPPF could make adopted Local Plans out of date as soon it comes into force as well as wasting significant work on emerging plans. We suggest that, although Local Plans and planning decisions should comply with the NPPF, local authorities should have the responsibility to decide whether their plans are in general conformity with the NPPF. This should not be onerous and the amendment the RTPI has promoted suggests that an expedited process for enabling it should be developed.

For more information on the RTPI's activities in relation to the Localism Act, please click here.

DCLG has produced a plain English guide to the Localism Act (external site).

Click here to listen tor a 10 minutes round up of the new Act on a podcast.