In the final part of our three part feature, Linus Rees wonders who the forthcoming Localism Bill will really benefit. Pete Whyatt maps the neighbourhood.
Originally Localism was hailed as a triumph for residential communities and democracy. No longer would government impose its view on citizens and instead people would be given power to shape their neighbourhoods.
One briefing paper published in April 2011 by a Cambridgeshire group stated that local residential communities could put together their own “neighbourhood plans”. The paper painted an optimistic picture of what Localism could mean for communities.
But according to the Campaign for the Protection of rural England (CPRE) the Cambridge group had obviously ignored George Osborne’s budget statement in March.
Far from the benefiting local residential communities and bringing much needed local services, “Economic growth through development is now the overriding priority for the planning system. Local, community, environmental and heritage concerns must give way to that priority.”
Whereas people have been led to believe that it is residential communities and voluntary groups who can put together neighbourhood plans, it now turns out that business-led groups can do the same.
At a time when support for voluntary organisations is being cut and business improvement districts are being encouraged, the balance of power is shifting not from government to people but from government to big business and developers.