You are currently browsing the daily archive for 26/05/2011.

There are some cynical souls who fear that the Localism Bill, the central plank of the government’s Big Society, is less about local democratic control and more about giving big business an easier ride at the local level and enabling Central Government to abandon much of its obligation to provide financial support for local people, thus leaving poorer communities hung out to dry. In other words, yet more of the smiling crocodile syndrome that has become so familiar (wanna buy a forest anyone?).  But we couldn’t possibly comment.

Except in one regard. The plans to democratise the planning system are certainly a matter of legitimate concern for those who are interested in the protection of ancient sites and their settings. Would greater local decision making power be a good thing? Local parish councils would be given the right to draw up “neighbourhood development plans” to say for instance where they think new houses should go and to grant full planning permission in areas where they most want to see new homes and businesses, making it easier and quicker for development to go ahead. Indeed, not only would local communities be given these powers, the influence of planning inspectors on those plans would be curtailed and the communities would be incentivised to say yes to developments because the government is proposing the locals are given a kick back from the profits to spend on community projects. “Bribes” would be the correct technical term but “levy” is what it says in the Bill. No matter, whatever it’s called it works like a dream – as some developers know so well! 

Aside from the fact that it is pretty obvious that the main beneficiaries of making it easier and quicker for developments to go ahead are not local communities but the government’s friends, the developers (do not feed the crocodile, the smile in not sincere!) is there anything to be said for the proposal? Well, the D word (democracy) always brings the house down (or up in this case!) but of course local freedom to say where new houses are to be built is fraught with all sorts of dodgy dangers, none of which are our business to analyse here.

Except in one respect: please, please, let not increased local decision making power to say where new houses are to be built apply to villages that are within prehistoric World Heritage Sites. As has recently been so vividly illustrated that would be a very bad idea.

 Localism in action: part of the Bond’s Garage development, Avebury. Every professional, official and conservation body opposed it. The Parish and District Councils didn’t…

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