A little newsy post today.
Localism within limits may be good for green agenda
More planning power for local government could mobilise communities to be more active in combating climate change, protecting local biodiversity and encouraging sustainable development, according to the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).
The government’s move to hand over more planning and decision making power to local authorities through the Local Government and Decentralisation Bill has received mixed reactions and is being reviewed by a parliamentary select committee.
“We could end up with a situation where we have rather more of the environmental agenda being embeded in community thinking rather than being imposed from above. It will take time and there needs to be some terms of reference,” said Paul Tomlinson, Head of the RTPI’s Environmental Planning Network.
The RTPI is leading the “Larger than Local” campaign, an alliance including Friends of the Earth among others. They say while the government’s proposal is not unworkable, a wider perspective is needed to meet and maintain national and international standards.
“There would need to be some evidence of consideration of the cumulative effects and the extent to which they deliver national policy objectives. There needs to be an overarching obligation for them to consider these issues. You’ve got things that are international conventions and national stratergies for biodiversity and the like,” said Tomlinson.
“At the end of the day a plan doesn’t deliver much, it’s what happens on the ground that’s key. We need to make sure the agenda is on the table without necessarily being prescriptive about what the solutions are,” he said.
The details of the bill are yet to be revealed, but it is likely to include more emphasis on local control over planning and funds. Deciding exactly where the power would lie and who would be involved in making decisions is a crucial part of the success or failure of a more localised system, said Professor John Stewart, who specialises in Local Government at the London School of Economics.
“We see very great uncertainty and confusion in what the government is actually saying. It’s clear that local governments, communities and citizens are involved, what is not clear is how these relate to each other. We think there’s all sorts of problems about what giving power to communities actually means… who will define the boundaires of these communities?” said Stewart at a select committee meeting on Tuesday.
Tomlinson is also concerned that a fragmented approach to planning may result in the actions of one community impacting another unless there is a system of consultation.
“I think it’s all possible, it’s just a matter of what are the mechaims by which that’s going to happen. The danger is you lose economies of scale, you lose holistic thinking when you start breaking things down to too smale a geographical area. If you don’t have a decision making process how do you engage all relevant parties in the decision making process?” he said.