I went to a very well attended breakfast seminar on the Localism Bill hosted by solicitors Howes Percival last week. The pre-seminar buzz amongst the impressively grey-suited property crowd was the previous day’s news that the Greater Norwich Development Partnership Joint Core Strategy had passed its Examination in Public, clearing the way for the three participating District Councils to press ahead with their massively delayed Local Development Frameworks. In this buoyant mood, the room remained quizzical at worst about the next upheaval heading towards the property industry – in the form of the Localism Bill.
Trevor Ivory, the new Planning Partner at Howes Percival, gave a very good overview of the Bill and took lots of questions at the end of the session. I asked him whether what we have learned recently about the Neighbourhood Plan process should allay concerns about it being a ‘Nimby Charter’ (see previous post). Yes, he replied, but it was anouther part of the Bill which created the real problem – namely the scrapping of the Regional Spatial Strategy housing targets. He explained that previously Councillors could use the RSS targets, ‘handed down…our hands are tied’, to deliver growth, but now these were removed local politicians would be directly accountable to their constituencies for whatever growth was planned – and in many areas this would lead quickly to lower targets. Fair point; thanks Trevor.
In that context one can understand attendees’ relief at the GNDP JCS having made it ‘under the wire’ with its old RSS housing targets intact. It was also interesting to see, in the in the local press yesterday, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England mourning the battle lost over these targets, which it believes are unjustifiable.
It may be spring, but there are still storm-clouds ahead, it seems.