Included in The Queen's Speech is the axing of Regional Spatial Strategies. This is another piece of evidence that the new Government is serious about reducing top down targets and restoring local democracy. Councils will be encouraged to allow more housing through incentives. A flexible approach that leaves planning power with the councils – rather than the diktat of Stalinist central planning.
Cllr Mark Hawthorn, the Consevative leader of Gloucesteshire County Council, says:
"Gloucestershire Conservatives have been fighting alongside people in this county for years to scrap the RSS.
"This is a real victory for people power. Now we will see the decisions about where housing is built taken in Gloucestershire, by councillors elected by Gloucestershire people.
"We will need some new housing – but hopefully this can take place in a more sustainable way in appropriate places."
Here is the official brief on the Decentralisation and Localism Bill:
The purpose of the Bill is to:
The Bill would devolve greater powers to councils and neighbourhoods and give local communities control over housing and planning decisions.
The main benefits of the Bill would be:
- Empowering local people.
- Freeing local government from central and regional control.
- Giving local communities a real share in local growth.
- A more efficient and more local planning system.
The main elements of the Bill are:
- Abolish Regional Spatial Strategies.
- Return decision-making powers on housing and planning to local councils.
- Abolish the Infrastructure Planning Commission and replace it with an efficient and democratically accountable system that provides a fast-track process for major infrastructure projects.
- New powers to help save local facilities and services threatened with closure, and give communities the right to bid to take over local state-run services.
- Abolish the Standards Board regime.
- Give councils a general power of competence.
- Require public bodies to publish online the job titles of every member of staff and the salaries and expenses of senior officials.
- Give residents the power to instigate local referendums on any local issue and the power to veto excessive council tax increases.
- Greater financial autonomy to local government and community groups.
- Create Local Enterprise Partnerships (to replace Regional Development Agencies) – joint local authority-business bodies brought forward by local authorities to promote local economic development.
- Form plans to deliver a genuine and lasting Olympic legacy.
- Outright abolition of Home Improvement Packs.
- Create new trusts that would make it simpler for communities to provide homes for local people.
- Review Housing Revenue Account.