One Glass Wharf hosts lively localism debate

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03 June 2011

Speakers at a property industry seminar hosted by Burges Salmon at One Glass Wharf this month [01.06.11] welcomed plans to give residents and businesses a greater say in local planning, and to give communities greater incentives to back new development.

However, concerns were raised at the event, part of a series of regional debates held in conjunction with the British Property Federation, that the government’s growth agenda could be held back unless further changes were made to the Bill.

Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: “We have been hugely encouraged by Ministers’ willingness to engage with industry in creating a planning system that meets their aspirations to strengthen the economy and promote sustainable development.

“However, it is clear from last night’s debate that concerns remain that the Bill as drafted could be used to frustrate development. There is no excuse for any developer not to engage properly with a community, but a balance must be struck that encourages all parties to work for the common good.”

Burges Salmon partner Gary Soloman welcomed the consideration of new incentives such as the New Homes Bonus in the determination of a planning application, as a way of generating new investment and growth.

However, he said that plans for communities to be able to nominate "assets of community value", giving them the right to purchase the property should it be put up for sale, risked encouraging vexatious applications from residents.

He said: "It seems to me you can draw parallels with Town and Village Greens. What it will do is delay development. Banks will not be willing to lend against an asset that is on the list, so it could be used as an anti-development tool and stop growth occurring".

Peter Jackson, the acting director of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, said he had been impressed by how businesses and councils had worked together since forming the LEP. However, he added: “I think there is a real risk that in some parts of the country the ability for neighbourhood planning to frustrate development will be quite high, particularly if incentives are not aimed at local communities directly.”

Zoe Wilcox, service director for planning and sustainable development at Bristol City Council welcomed neighbourhood planning as a useful tool to deliver the housing and job targets set out in the council’s core strategy.

However, she raised concern over the resources and support that would be needed to enable neighbourhood plans, and said that new powers for communities to call local referendums risked creating “planning by X-Factor” if they were held on proposals for development.

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