In 2011-12, as the Localism Bill moved through Parliament, Future of London surveyed borough practitioners to gauge perceptions of the various measures and reforms within the localism agenda. The results formed our 2012 publication Localism in London – the implications for planning and economic development. In 2015, we surveyed a similar group to to see if views have changed, and how they have translated into practice. Survey findings are discussed here, while this post looks at each measure in detail.
Came into effect: April 2010
Overview Planning charge allowing local planning authorities to raise funds for infrastructure. The value of the tariff, and type of development on which it is charged, is at the authorities’ discretion. The Localism Act allowed greater flexibility over these decisions, and specified that a proportion of funds would be allocated to communities where the development takes place.
- According to Planning Resource’s CIL Watch, 27 London boroughs have adopted CIL plans, with a further five at draft stage. Additionally, the London Legacy Development Corporation sets its own CIL, adopted in January 2015 to support development in the Olympic Park. It is likely that Old Oak Common and Park Royal, which launched as London’s second Mayoral Development Corporation in April 2015, will also set its own CIL.
- A TfL two-year review of the mayor’s Crossrail CIL said it was performing well, having collected £86m of the £300m due by April 2019, from over 2,000 developments. Commentators pointed out that TfL’s report didn’t consider the impact multiple levies could be having on viability and hence the supply of affordable housing.
Came into effect: February 2011
Overview Financial incentive from central government to local authorities, awarded annually over five financial years (first phase from 2011 to 2016), with the amount determined by projected levels of new housing supply. In 2011-12, council tax raised through new homes or homes brought back into use was match-funded, with a higher amount for affordable homes. Subsequent years have seen the government contribute £250m in grant, with the rest of the funding in fact a redistribution of the local finance settlement.
- Despite widespread disagreement in consultation, the 2013 autumn statement confirmed that £70m of London’s £248m allocated NHB grant in its final year of 2015-16 will be pooled to support the work of the London LEP. This will not affect all local authorities evenly: April 2015 CLG statistics show that LB Tower Hamlets received the highest allocation in the country by far, at just under £25m, or around 10% of the funding pot, due to its extensive new-build housing programme. This translates into the borough losing £7m to LEP funding.
- CLG’s December 2014 evaluation of the NHB mechanism found London authorities to contain some of the biggest winners and losers, as the relative strength of the incentive is dependent on an authority’s financial position and its wider housing market.
- The November 2015 autumn statement signalled a forthcoming consultation on the mechanism to “sharpen the incentive to reward communities for additional homes”. London Councils warned that the £1.2bn New Homes Bonus programme could be one of the initiatives whose funding could depend on the devolved business rates regime proposed for 2020.
Came into effect: February 2012
Overview Power for local authorities in England to do “anything that individuals generally may do”, including raising money by charging and trading, provided it is not prohibited by other legislation. At a time when budget cuts call for partnerships and other new ways of working, this could be a useful tool.
- In 2013, the Local Government Association (LGA) reported that councils were finding a number of constraints to the use of the GPC in practice, including limitations on charges and various legal restrictions. Legal experts have also suggested that relating a local authority’s powers to those of an individual is unhelpful, as “an individual is not invested with heavy statutory responsibilities including stewardship of public funds”.
- London boroughs may be particularly reluctant to use the successor to well-being powers, after the Local Authorities Mutual judicial review in 2008.
- It is difficult to ascertain how many boroughs are using GPC. LGA used LB Richmond as an example in its report, for using GPC to introduce Civic Pride grants to individuals and Empty Shop Grants for short-term community use.
Came into effect: March 2012
Overview The consolidation of over 200 Planning Policy Statements (PPS) and Planning Policy Guidance Notes (PPG) into one framework, to make the planning system less complex and more accessible. While this was mostly seen as good practice, some of the streamlined content, such as the “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, was seen as lacking clarity, and likely to put economic sustainability ahead of social and environmental.
- In March 2015, a BDO survey of residential developers and housing associations found that 52% felt the NPPF had made no difference, 19% said it had inhibited the process and only 29% believed it had been helpful.
- Changes proposed in the Housing and Planning Bill – from a brownfield register (which places a duty on registering brownfield sites) to the granting of ‘Permission in Principle’ (i.e. automatic consent for new homes on land designated in local and neighbourhood plans for future sites) are likely to be the focus of heated debate over the coming months.
Came into effect: April 2012
Overview Relevant to London’s 29 stock-owning authorities, HRA reform gave councils management of their housing assets. These councils can borrow against existing stock to fund new homes and retain all rental income to build new homes or improve existing ones.
- The Chartered Institute of Housing and London Councils have lobbied against the cap imposed on overall levels of council borrowing, claiming that it stops councils from making extra investment from their rental income. It also featured in the 2013 London Finance Commission report.
Came into effect: multiple changes 2010-2015
Overview A host of changes signifying a shift from centralised distribution to incentivising local action. Local authorities can offer business rates relief to smaller businesses, charities and some retailers, and London’s Royal Docks Enterprise Zone benefits from reduced business rates up to 2018. Since 2013, local authorities have retained 50% of business rates as an incentive to increase enterprise.
- On 5th October 2015, the Chancellor announced that from 2020, local councils would be able to retain 100% of business rates in their entirety they collect (as opposed to the current 50%) and that the uniform national business rate will be abolished. Additionally, combined authorities with directly elected mayors will be able to increase business rates (up to a 2% cap), subject to a majority vote of LEP business members. London already has this power, and the Mayor has already used it to add a rates supplement to fund Crossrail.
Came into effect: April – November 2012 (enabled by the November 2011 Localism Act)
- ACV: The right for communities to identify a building or land they believe to be of importance to their community’s social well-being (if the asset comes up for sale, they will be given a fair chance to bid on it on the open market). Councils must publish a register of available assets.
- CRB: Gives groups of local people the power to deliver development that their local community wants (while reducing the red tape for them to navigate).
- CRC: Allows voluntary and community groups, charities, parish councils and local authority staff to bid to run a local authority service where they believe they can do so more effectively. This may be the whole service or part of a service.
- NP: The ability for parish councils or neighbourhood forums to designate an area in which to make planning policy, usually in the form of a Neighbourhood Plan or Development Order, and/or to make a Community Right to Build order.
- Of the 13 neighbourhood plans passed at community referendums nationally since April 2014, only two are in London: Norland, in RB Kensington & Chelsea and Fortune Green and West Hampstead in LB Camden. The London Assembly Planning Committee’s 2014 report shows that London has 48 designated neighbourhood forums. This suggests that there is much enthusiasm for neighbourhood planning, but that the seven-step process does not translate easily into plans. The report concludes that uptake of community powers in London has been slow and that the legislation is best suited for smaller, more homogenous areas than are found in London.
- The Housing and Planning Bill has signalled further changes to neighbourhood planning that put more responsibility on councils to facilitate the process efficiently, and allow Secretary of State intervention towards the end of the process. At the same time, neighbourhood planning featured in central government’s recent Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) consultation, which calls for a streamlining of the procedures whereby a BID could act as a neighbourhood forum, presumably with the intent of increasing the number of forums who manage to successfully make Neighbourhood Plans.