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Localism and changes to the planning system: What the building surveyor should be aware of and how they can make the system work for their clients
‘Localism’ has been one of those concepts that have actually been around for some time — but no one had realised the political capital until the coalition saw the merits of mixing planning and the community. As a combination, such a mix could be the making of the country; or it could simply create a system that further frustrates the much-maligned development industry. This paper looks at how the planning system has been influenced by the Localism Act six months after its enactment and further to its boost by the government's simplified national planning guidance. Is the planning system an easier beast to deal with, and has the red tape diminished? Well, the sentiment is welcomed, but the practice is a little more difficult to shout about. Too early, some may cry — but the government is half-way through its term and people want to see changes, not just hear about them. The encouragement for neighbourhood planning, which aims to bring planning decisions back to the local level, is working slowly where funds have been made available to local groups motivated to shape their environment, but this is ad hoc. As envisaged, those with time on their hands and funds to call on are making the most of the opportunity. But this is resulting in a patchwork of activity. The articulate middle classes are keen to capitalise on the new regulations but, as sadly anticipated, this has generally been as a means to resist excessive development rather than embrace development which may not be to their liking. After all, how many communities would welcome a waste transfer station on their doorstep, or a high level of social housing, when historic prejudices will take some time to address. Perhaps it is not surprising that some are seeing the neighbourhood regulations as a PR exercise frustrating rather than encouraging construction. So given that context, are there issues that a building surveyor should be aware of, and if so, how can they make the system work for their clients?
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