Hopes remain on Localism Act

The localism bill, which passed into law to become the Localism Act last week, could throw up opportunities as well as challenges for the landscape and greenspace sectors, industry figures have said.

While many in the horticulture and landscape sector fear the implications of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which sweeps away regional in favour of local strategies, the green sector could seize chances in other areas, they feel.

BALI chairman Paul Cowell said: "I'm hoping localism will play to our advantage. Small contractors and designers with local experience could be in line to pick up work - especially with cash-strapped authorities without in-house teams or looking to contract out.

"Smaller-scale operations could benefit, as they don't have the overheads of larger contractors and may be able to squeeze competitiveness."

Greenspace consultant Sid Sullivan said: "The key is to see whether local communities have the capacity and knowledge to be involved in a meaningful way. At the same time you have to counter stakeholder activism, where small groups press a case and sideline all others.

"There will also be a need to ensure that the service gets finance from the community infrastructure levy. There are openings for landscape management and upkeep and for working with parks and groups such as social housing as joint procurers."

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) said it supported "the underlying objectives" of the bill, but believed the act would fail to deliver a workable planning system unless issues around the NPPF were resolved.

RTPI president Richard Summers said: "The real test of the act will be its implementation and the resources available to enable planning to deliver. The key issue will be to reduce the continuing uncertainty, cost and delay for the planning system.

"Although local plans and planning decisions should comply with the NPPF, local authorities should have the responsibility to decide whether their plans are in general conformity with the NPPF. This should not be onerous."

Adam Royle, senior parliamentary officer for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: "The definition of sustainable development in the NPPF remains insufficient and fails to recognise environmental limits."

Localism Act - Key planning reforms

- Abolition of regional strategies, including centrally defined housing targets

- Neighbourhood planning, giving communities more say on developments

- Developers to consult communities before submitting certain applications

- Community infrastructure levy to be spent on things other than infrastructure and directing some of the money to neighbourhoods.

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