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Localism bill gets royal assent

The Localism Bill became an Act of Parliament today after it was granted royal assent by the Queen.

A key plank of the coalition government’s legislative agenda, the Act shifts power away from central government, officially abolishes Regional Spatial Strategies and introduces neighbourhood plans and the New Homes Bonus.

The Royal Assent brings to an end more than a year of parliamentary debate over the Bill.

The construction industry welcomed the news in the hope the new powers it gives communities would make them more likely to embrace development.

British Property Federation chief executive Liz Peace said:  “We welcome the government’s recognition of the need for localism to support sustainable economic growth and have been pleased to work closely with the government in developing the concept of business neighbourhoods in areas that are mainly commercial in character. 

“We look forward to the government now realising the full potential of localism by pressing ahead with other measures that can empower local communities such as greater local retention of rate revenues and tax increment financing.”

Linden Homes group managing director Ian Baker said:  “It will certainly help us. First, we will start to see coherent proposals from communities which set out how they want to grow and to which we can respond.

“Second, the process should draw in a wider cross-section of people – those who are looking to build sustainable communities over the longer term and not just those who are flat opposed to new homes being built. 

Dundas & Wilson consultant and head of public law Lord Colin Boyd QC warned the changes would “import a lot more uncertainty into the system for developers and communities alike”.

He said:  “There are inherent tensions between the government’s desire for development-led economic growth and local communities expectations of a major say in how and where development takes place.

“How these tensions are resolved will be key to how the new legislation works. The fear must be that many disputes may end up in the courts with all the cost, delay and uncertainty that that entails.”

But he said infrastructure projects had a better outlook from the Act.

“The government has left in place most of the Planning Act 2008.

“The abolition of the Infrastructure Planning Commission and the transfer of the examination function to the new Major Infrastructure Planning Unit at the Planning Inspectorate should be a smooth process.

“The only remaining concern must be the consistency of approach from the Secretary of State in reaching decisions on applications for Development Consent Orders. The first few decisions will be watched closely by developers and public alike.”

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