This is entry number 197, first published on 13 December 2010, of a blog on the implementation of the Planning Act 2008. Click here for a link to the whole blog.

Today's entry reports on the publication of the Localism Bill.

The long-awaited Localism Bill is finally revealed today. After at least two false starts, the Bill appears on today's Parliamentary Order of Business as having its first reading today. Analysis of the Bill as it affects infrastructure planning will follow tomorrow.

Materials

Here is the 'long title' of the Bill. Normally given as a continuous sentence, I have formatted it for easier reading:

The Bill will be accompanied by other documents, but it is on its own at the moment. The main one is 'explanatory notes', which explain the purpose and effect each clause of the Bill in non-technical language. Other documents are a 'delegated powers memorandum', which sets out the powers contained in the Bill that allow the government to legislate by order, and an 'impact assessment', which sets out the financial and environmental costs and benefits of the Bill.

There was some debate as to whether the provisions of the Bill abolishing regional strategies would require, or at least undergo, Strategic Environmental Assessment, where their environmental effects are assessed and published in an 'environmental report', so it will be interesting to see whether one is published either separately or as part of the impact assessment.

Contents of Bill

The Bill will be analysed in tomorrow's blog entry, but here are the contents of the background note mentioned above:

  • right to veto excessive council tax rises
  • community right to challenge [council service provision]
  • community right to buy [council assets]
  • local referendums
  • general power of competence
  • local authority governance [return to committee system option]
  • directly elected mayors
  • predetermination [rules relaxed for councillors]
  • standards board [abolished]
  • pay accountability [of senior officers]
  • scrapping bin taxes
  • abolition of regional strategies
  • community infrastructure levy reforms
  • local plan reform
  • neighbourhood planning
  • community right to build [without planning permission following a referendum]
  • duty to cooperate [between councils]
  • pre-application consultation [on large developments]
  • enforcement [reforms, e.g. appealing and reapplying simultaneously to be forbidden]
  • abolition of Infrastructure Planning Commission
  • Parliamentary vote on National Policy Statements
  • social housing allocations reform
  • reform of homelessness legislation
  • social housing tenure reform
  • reform of council housing finance
  • national homeswap scheme
  • reform of scoial housing regulation
  • facilitating moves out of the social rented sector
  • home information packs [abolished]
  • London governance changes

Procedure

The 'first reading' is the first stage of the passage of a Bill through each House of Parliament and merely represents the publication of the Bill - no debate or vote takes place. Bills can start in either House, and are shared between them to spread the Parliamentary load. Which House to start in was apparently one of the contributors to the delay of the publication of the Bill, but the Commons has been settled upon.

The next stage is the 'second reading', which does involve a debate and a vote on whether the Bill should proceed further. The debate is likely to take a whole day on the floor of the House of Commons. Normally, the second reading does not take place until at least two weekends have passed since the first reading, to give MPs time to consider the text of the Bill. Given that the Commons rises for the Christmas adjournment on 22 December, this means that the second reading will not take place until next year. The Commons returns on 10 January 2011.