Parliament to scrutinise government’s planning reforms

The Commons Communities and Local Government Committee has announced that it will be holding  two separate inquiries into aspects of the government’s local planning regime. One inquiry will examine the decision to abolish regional spatial strategies (RSS) and the other will review the coalition’s localism agenda. The abolition of the regional spatial strategies was one of the main measures featured in the coalition government’s Localism Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech.

The inquiry into the abolition of regional spatial strategies will focus primarily on the implications for house building, in particular the implications of the abolition of regional house building targets for levels of housing development and the likely effectiveness of the Government’s plan to incentivise local communities to accept new housing development.

The Committee will also be considering the arrangements which should be put in place to ensure appropriate cooperation between local planning authorities on matters formerly covered by regional spatial strategies, the adequacy of proposals already put forward by the Government,  and how the data and research collated by the now-abolished Regional Local Authority Leaders’ Boards should be updated and made available to local authorities

The terms of reference for the committee’s localism inquiry will focus on the extent to which decentralisation leads to more effective public service delivery; and what the limits are, or should be, of localism. It will also review  the potential to build on the work done under the Total Place initiative, particularly through place-based budgeting, and what, if any, arrangements for the oversight of local authority performance will be necessary to ensure effective local public service delivery.

Last month, Andrew Stunell the Liberal Democrat Minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government, addressed the LGA conference in Bournemouth, saying:

There will be a huge Localism Bill later this year with much of this stuff in it. It will be really groundbreaking. The Bill will set the stage for the long-overdue push of powers out of Whitehall to councils and neighbourhoods right across the country, and give local communities control over housing and planning decisions. It will help set the foundations for the Big Society by radically transforming the relationships between central government, local government, communities and individuals.

Together, these reforms will shift power from the central state back into the hands of individuals, communities and councils. It will also give local people – individuals and community groups – more power over local government and over how public money is spent in their area, and ensure that councillors are more directly accountable to them.

The deadline for written submissions to the RSS inquiry is 15th September and for the localism inquiry by 1st October.

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