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New planning and business rates measures announced in Queen’s Speech

The planning system will be simplified and proposals to devolve business rates will be developed under measures announced at today’s State Opening of Parliament.

The Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech, includes measures to make the local government duty to support neighbourhood planning more transparent, limit pre-commencement planning conditions and make the compulsory purchase process faster.

It will also establish the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) on a statutory basis and go ahead with controversial plans to privatise the Land Registry.

The Local Growth and Jobs Bill will set out a framework for the delivery of business rates devolution, while also giving councils more powers to reduce business rates in order to support the local economy. Cllr Claire Kober, resources portfolio holder at the LGA, said it was “absolutely crucial” that business rates devolution kept pace with the cost of new responsibilities being transferred to councils.

Cllr Neil Clarke, chair of the District Councils’ Network, supported the new legislation, saying: “DCN is pleased to see a number of the elements it has lobbied for incorporated into the Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill. We will continue to work with the Local Plans Expert Group to speed up the development of local plans and look forward to continue to work in collaboration with DCLG to implement the policies within the Bill.

“DCN welcomes the Local Growth and Jobs Bill and would also welcome an acceleration of the timetable for the local retention of business rates, to further incentivise district councils to continue to stimulate growth in their economies.”

However, Cllr Clarke said that the ‘devil was in the detail’ with the new legislation, with matters such as how business rates are spent best being adapted to suit the needs of a local area.

Cllr Peter Box, planning spokesperson at the LGA, expressed concern about the reforms to planning, adding: "There is little evidence to suggest development is being delayed by planning conditions. Planning conditions provide a vital role, enabling planning permissions to go ahead which would otherwise be refused or delayed while the details are worked out.”

But he did support the measures regarding compulsory purchase order, saying it would lead to the building of more homes, and the establishment of the NIC.

Tony Armstrong, chief executive of community organisations network Locality, who wrote an article for the latest edition of PSE on the government’s new ‘healthy towns’ initiative, also commented: “Neighbourhood planning is a tool to enable growth and development and gives communities a chance to have their voice heard in a way that is meaningful.

“It’s encouraging to see the government recognising the importance of neighbourhood planning and we look forward to seeing more detail as it emerges through the drafting of the new Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill.”

(Image c. Alastair Grant from AP/ Press Association Images)

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