Headlines: December 10th, 2010

Proposals to decentralise and streamline the planning system will result in more local decision making. Neighbourhood groups are wanted to pilot the proposed arrangements.

Under the proposals neighbourhood groups will be able to shape development where they live. Communities will be able to come together to decide what their area should look like, where new shops, offices or homes should go and what green spaces should be protected. Parish councils and new neighbourhood forums of local people will lead the way in shaping their community. If local people then vote in favour of new ‘Neighbourhood Plans’ in local referendums, councils will have to adopt them.

At the heart of the new approach will be a package of powerful incentives, such as the New Homes Bonus, that will encourage the right kind of local development and financially reward those councils and communities that deliver new homes and businesses to their area. Reforms to the Community Infrastructure Levy will also see a meaningful proportion of the levy handed over to the local neighbourhoods where the development takes place.

Communities will be able to propose the boundaries of their neighbourhood. They will generally be based on existing parishes and towns but the local council will have a role in mediating and consulting where there are conflicts or no established boundaries. This will provide a stable basis for neighbourhood planning, with local authorities approving appropriate boundaries.

Ministers are calling on communities to get involved now. The Government would like to see about a dozen local areas come forward to act as pilots that will trial Neighbourhood Plans in their area. This step will help ensure that their experience is taken into account before the legislation comes into force.

Councils for Eden in Cumbria, Sutton in Surrey, West Dorset, Bristol and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead have already shown an interest in taking part in the pilot schemes.