Harper Forum report - Fenella Collins of the CLA

21 February 2011

By Harper Forum Reporter, Charlotte Harley.

The Forum topic this week was the proposed Localism Bill- legislation that by the end of the year should have succeeded in completely restructuring the current planning system.

Speaker, Fenella Collins, Head of Planning for the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), began by explaining that for years, the planning system has been under strain and pressure. Few councils have been drawing up local plans, and rural planning has become increasingly difficult.

Under the new Localism Bill there will be opportunities to amend this. The government aims for the bill are to:
• Decentralise power to lowest level, i.e local authorities .
• Give communities greater planning processes
• Give communities greater power on local issues – this included the right to control their own community facilities like the libraries and swimming pools.

However, in these new ‘community powers’ the CLA are concerned with the right this gives individuals on privately owned land that is voluntarily lent to communities, as they will be subjected to statutory designations.

Ms Collins continued to explain that the bill proposes to scrap the regional planning level of the current structure and to replace it at a neighbourhood level.

Included in this would be:
• Neighbourhood Development Plans
• Neighbourhood Development Orders
• Community Right to Bid

Such a neighbourhood plan would require a fee of around £63,000-65,000. This can still be rejected so the money would be of high risk.

During questions at the end of the Forum, it was asked for a definition of a ‘neighbourhood’ to which Ms Collins’s reply was simply a parish or in areas where parishes no longer existed, three members could join together.

When discussing the issue of raising £63,000 within a parish, the speaker explained that parishes could group together and within Shropshire, parishes had already shown an interest in neighbourhood plans.

The next Harper Forum will be in two weeks time, with a speaker from Fairtrade.

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