Update on the Localism Bill – Community Empowerment?

As the Localism Bill makes the final stages of its journey to Royal Assent, Future of London will report on key developments.

During the debate in the House of Lords this week, the entire chapter (18 clauses) on referendums has been dropped. The main reasons were the potential costs to, and disempowerment of, local authorities, and the risk of misuse by extreme groups.  In addition, the advisory nature of the referenda was called into question. Local authorities were not to be obligated to act on the referenda, meaning a lot of time and money spent on something with a potentially negligible outcome. Community referenda related to Council Tax rises, Right to Build and Neighbourhood Plans remain. However, the removal of an entire chapter feels like a blow to the Bill, and more than one Lord expressed that, due to the Bill abolishing the public petitioning procedure, communities could in fact be less empowered than they were before Localism.

Alongside these developments, however, CLG has today published new guidance and details surrounding the powers that will be contained within the Bill surrounding neighbourhood planning. They can be found here.