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  • Overview

    As the government accelerates planning reforms, solicitors are tailoring their services to accommodate what are often contentious changes.

    As a country with a growing population and acute housing and infrastructure crises, planning and environmental issues are high on the UK’s political agenda. Legislation has flowed from the coalition and Conservative governments, aiming to reduce the length and complexity of the planning process, kickstart construction projects and promote local community involvement.

    The Localism Act 2011 was created to bring about what the Conservatives called ‘an invitation to join the government of Great Britain’. One of the most significant features of the act was the creation of neighbourhood plans: devolving decision-making powers to communities to shape their local planning agendas. ‘Neighbourhood plans are very significant in terms of housing development in local neighbourhood planning,’ says Richard Wald, a barrister at 39 Essex Chambers, London.

    They have proved popular with communities, with over 200 having passed referendums, and more in various stages of development.

    A much-publicised case of a community using its neighbourhood plan to shape development is St Ives, Cornwall, which in May 2016 voted for a plan that included a clause restricting new housing to full-time residents. The decision was subject to a judicial review, dismissed in November 2016. The result will have ramifications nationwide: ‘This is a hugely important judgment for Cornwall, St Ives Town Council and for the residents of St Ives, who wanted to ensure that any new homes in the town would be the resident’s sole or main residence,’ Edwina Hannaford, Cornwall Council’s cabinet member for planning, says.

    ‘We know that a number of other local communities, both in Cornwall and across the country, are interested in including similar policies in their own neighbourhood plans and have been watching this case with interest.’

    The full article is available online, first published by The Law Society Gazette on 9 January 2017: Planning law: shifting foundations

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