THE coalition government’s proposed localism bill could bring about the biggest shake-up of the planning system in more than 60 years, a lawyer from Chester has claimed.
David Kerfoot, newly-appointed partner at Chester-based Aaron & Partners LLP, believes the controversial Decentralisation and Localism Bill could lead to the most significant change to the planning system since the enactment of the Town and Country Planning Act 1947.
Mr Kerfoot said: "The traditional planning approach has always required authorities to create a plan setting out detailed policies and specific proposals for their area whether at regional, county or more local level.
“After six decades, the localism bill may seek to end all that by allowing communities to have the main role in deciding where to create new homes, shops and businesses and putting residents rather than councils at the heart of planning decisions.”
His comments come at a time of intense speculation regarding the contents of the bill, due to be published towards the end of the year.
Recent reports in the national media have claimed that a third-party right of appeal against successful planning applications will be left out.
Aaron & Partners, one of the largest law firms in Cheshire and North Wales with 20 partners, will be analysing the bill’s potential impact during free seminars, entitled ‘Planning Law vs The Big Society’, next week.
“There are so many questions that we don't yet have answers to,” said Mr Kerfoot.
“All we keep hearing is that local needs will be addressed, but how do we ensure that this concept of 'localism' is not manipulated by the organised, vocal minority?”
Mr Kerfoot also expressed concern over the compatibility of ‘localism’ with areas of national concern such as renewable energy, where the UK government has set national and agreed to international commitments.
"Renewable energy projects can cause significant and often disproportionate local concern. It remains to be seen how the need to meet targets will be reconciled with the fact that many local communities don’t want a wind farm or biomass plant in their back yard.”
He added that making significant changes to the planning process is “always a daunting prospect” that is often beset with teething problems, and urged the coalition to “think carefully” about the short and long term effects of the proposed changes.
He concluded: “Creating a new and uncertain system that had the effect, however unintentionally, of slowing down the planning process even further would be disastrous – particularly in the current economic climate.”
The first seminar takes place on Tuesday, November 16 from 8am-10am at St David’s Park Hotel in Ewloe, near Chester. The second takes place the following day from 4.30pm-6pm at the Aaron & Partners Manchester office at Pall Mall Court, King Street.
The seminars will also review how the planning system in Wales is diverging from that in England.
As well as Mr Kerfoot, speakers will include Ian Kinloch, consultant from the specialist planning law team at Aaron & Partners, and planning specialist Paul Tucker QC from Kings Chambers.
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