Progress on neighbourhood plans in London slow, report says

Out-Law News | 24 Nov 2014 | 2:44 pm | 1 min. read

The Localism Act's neighbourhood planning regime is not working in London (36-page / 494KB PDF), with only around 80 of the capital's 1,200 neighbourhoods having expressed an interest in the process, a report by the London Assembly planning committee has found. 

The 'Localism in London' report said that only one neighbourhood plan has been adopted in the three years since the power was introduced. It is unlikely that more than a handful of plans will be in place by the time of the next election, it said.

The report said that evidence suggested that reasons why progress is held back in London include that the legislation was designed for "smaller, more homogenous areas than London".

It said that the underlying assumptions behind the push for neighbourhood planning were "far more challenging" in London than elsewhere. "London is a uniquely tangled urban area. Self-defined communities often cross local authority boundaries and may be fragmented or mobile," the report said.

The report also pointed to the cost of support as a further brake on progress as well as the difficulty for local authorities to handle competing applications from different groups with overlapping geographical boundaries.

It said that the parts of London which have overcome these barriers appear to be "fortunate in having a number of favourable conditions already in place". "Areas with established community and interest groups, in relatively affluent neighbourhoods with access to professional expertise have managed to galvanise themselves into action. Other areas, without these advantages, have found the challenges too great to overcome," the report said.

The committee said in the report that it still believes neighbourhood planning should be encouraged in London and that the policy is "in need of a refresh". It said that neighbourhood forums need clear legitimacy, access to the right financial and human resources and adequate support and advice throughout the process of developing a plan.

The report asked for feedback and suggestions from stakeholders as to how neighbourhood planning can be taken forward in London, which the committee said it will take to the Mayor.

“Planning shapes the places where people live and work and it is right that local people should be involved in the process of deciding local priorities," said chair of the planning committee Nicky Gavron in a statement.  "This is why the planning committee agrees that the idea of neighbourhood planning, promoted in the Localism Act, is a positive one."

"This report provides an opportunity to develop views on what the Mayor should be doing to help support neighbourhood planning. In light of government reforms on permitted development, many neighbourhoods are developing valuable local assets like community spaces, shops, and offices. More should be done to facilitate neighbourhood plans that protect what exists, not just promoting new developments,” Gavron said.