Localism in London: event report

Future of London and GVA hosted the latest in our series of seminars looking at development and renewal issues – this time examining the impact of the Government’s localism agenda on planning and regeneration in the capital. We heard from central Government, and from those leading radical projects in inner and outer London, how the localism agenda can be delivered on the ground.

Mark Lee, the Localism Bill Manager at the Department for Communities and Local Government provided an overview of the aims and objectives of the legislation, as well as some of the specific reforms it will contain, and a timeline for its anticipated progress into law over the coming months.

Our other two panel members – Darren Richards, Executive Head of Planning and Transportation, LB Sutton, and Simon Bevan, Interim Head of Planning and Transport, LB Southwark, each leading on one of London’s vanguard community projects endorsed by the Government, offered fascinating presentations on their progress in implementing some of the principles underpinning the Localism Bill, and the Government’s Big Society agenda.


A wide ranging discussion ensued, with particular concern from our 70 strong audience regarding the practicalities of how the Localism Bill is actually going to work.

Key messages from the session included:

  • There is a strong need for planning authorities to start preparing for this shift now – the introduction of neighbourhood plans and local referenda will change the starting point for much of development, and it will require authorities to have a clear sense of direction and evidence base to inform discussions with residents.
  • Patience will be required from all stakeholders, including the planning authority in question. It takes time to embed new ways of working with neighbourhood groups, and to get their buy in to plans. However, once secured, it can create momentum behind projects, greater certainty for investors and developers, and a sense of identity and community within the local area.
  • We should not underestimate how ambitious the Government is in relation to introducing localism across a range of related policy areas. This is not just idle rhetoric, but in the words of Mark from DCLG, “a significant statement of intent to fundamentally change how we conceive of, and implement, strategic planning in the UK”, including in London.

Given these key messages, there is clearly some work to be done to convince practitioners in London of the merits of this new approach, and a clear route map to how it can work in practice. Future of London will be continuing to explore the questions surrounding this agenda in the months ahead, so look out for more updates on the website.

For full copies of presentations delivered by our panel members, click here, to read our Policy Focus paper on the Localism Bill, click here.

Ben H