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The Localism Act...From a legal point of viewBy: Julia Lock, Andrew & Co LLP

The Localism Bill received Royal Assent on 15 November 2011 and the provisions of the Act were phased in from April 2012. The Act sees the introduction of further changes to planning systems and Julia Lock, an Associate with East Midlands law firm Andrew & Co LLP, explores the main implications and opportunities for developers.

While the Act introduces new procedures for developers to follow during the planning application process, it also creates an opportunity for them to engage with local communities and help shape development areas.

The Act places a compulsory obligation on developers to consult local communities before submitting planning applications for certain types of development. Full details of the types of development to be subject to this requirement will be set out in secondary legislation, which should be finalised towards the end of 2012.

Developers will need to ensure that the consultation process is carried out correctly and that all proposals made by the local community are properly considered, otherwise any resulting planning permission could be open to challenge. If managed correctly, the consultation process could reduce the number of objections made once the planning application is submitted.

The Act allows local communities to develop a neighbourhood plan for their area. They will be able to establish general planning policies for the development and use of land in their area. Furthermore, with a Neighbourhood Development Order, communities can also grant planning permission for new buildings they are keen to see go ahead.

Prudent developers need to be aware of what is happening in areas where they have land interests and to engage with the local community with a view to influencing the policies contained within a neighbourhood plan and also any development granted consent, pursuant to a Neighbourhood Development Order. Government guidance suggests that developers may sponsor local communities in the preparation of a neighbourhood plan with a view to taking a lead role in the process.

The above opportunities may result in more up-front costs for developers. However, if used effectively, the new provisions could see developers securing planning permission without the need to pursue an application through to appeal. As a result developers may ultimately benefit.

Julia Lock, Andrew & Co LLP

About the author:

Julia Lock heads up Andrew & Co LLP’s commercial property team in Newark.

Features July 2012

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