THE Government last year passed the Localism Act, one of whose purposes was to give more control to local councils, including parish councils, to shape their own areas.
This was a bold move, trusting local people in the belief that they know best for their own area.
Clearly this year the Government has now got cold feet, because particularly in the planning area, we have seen many proposals whose intention is to chip away, bit by bit, at the freedoms given under the Localism Act.
One major example of this was the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework, which effectively gives substantial freedom to developers to have their own way with planning applications, if local councils have not got their own local rules just right and absolutely up to date.
More recently the Government has said they want to allow developers unilaterally to re-negotiate planning agreements, which were always designed to give local communities some form of benefit in the face of developments which otherwise caused problems. Communities were thus able to benefit from developers’ contributions to highways improvements or to education facilities.
It is also proposing that it is made more difficult to use older legislation used to identify and protect areas where the public at large enjoy rights of access such as village greens.
Even more recently the Government have indicated they want to take away to a large extent the power of judicial review, which is the only avenue available to objectors to a planning application once it has been approved by a local council. The right of appeal to planning decisions has long been a Liberal Democrat policy.
All of these actions can only be interpreted as one wing of the current government deciding to appease their developer friends after recognising that the other wing of government achieved a substantial victory for local communities with the Localism Act.