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Government acts to give businesses more planning powers

A drive to give businesses more influence on planning decisions has gathered pace with details of a national pilot scheme and support in the House of Commons for the Localism Bill.

The Department for Communities and Local Government named eight ‘business neighbourhood frontrunners’ across the UK to pilot a move that would see businesses, councils and the community preparing planning and development frameworks.

If these are later passed in a local referendum they would be adopted by the council.

The initiative would also make it easier to change the designated use of buildings, expand facilities and remove the need to apply to the council for every adaptation made to a building.

The eight frontrunners are being invited to make a formal application to the CLG to access support and funding needed to develop a plan.

Greg Clark MP, minister for decentralisation, sent out an invitation for others to become business frontrunners at a launch event in Southwark, hosted by one of the pilot groups, Better Bankside, along with the British Property Federation and the British Chambers of Commerce.

Mr Clark told CN: “One of the things that everyone recognises has been very frustrating is that the planning process has often been dysfunctional in that it pits developers against residents, which has only led to increased cost, delays, uncertainty and, very often, resentment.

“So the point of the Localism Bill is to do what actually is established as good practice here and everywhere around the world – that if you involve the community in planning the future of their development from a very early stage, you stand a far better chance of reducing costs and making it successful.”

Mr Clark was unable to give details about the funding that might be available under the frontrunner scheme.

The Localism Bill completed its third reading in the House of Commons last night.

Liz Peace, chief executive at the BPF, which has been lobbying for amendments to the bill to give more power to businesses, said it could mean developers working with communities to settle disagreements or consider schemes a lot earlier.

Fears were raised at the meeting, however, about businesses driving the planning agenda.

Mr Clark said he would hope the groups would have ‘particularly good relationships’ with the 33 Local Enterprise Partnerships, which aim to bring together businesses and local authorities to deliver economic growth to communities.

The full list of frontrunners is:

  • New West End Company, London
  • Liverpool Innovation Park - owned by Space NW
  • Central Milton Keynes
  • Team Valley Trading Estate, Gateshead - owned by North East Property Partnership
  • Southbank, London - plan spearheaded by South Bank Employers’ Group
  • New West End Company, London
  • Bankside, London
  • Trafford Park, Manchester

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