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Localism is set to transform the way in which we  secure planning permission.

The days of tick box consultation processes look to be behind us and we are all going to have to flick our switches from send to receive and concentrate on listening to local communities rather than telling them what we want to build.

Planning and localism

The Localism Act is set to transform the way in which developers engage with communities. The government is keen to encourage engagement rather than tick-box consultation.

There are three key parts to the Big Society agenda:

  • Community empowerment: giving local councils and neighbourhoods more power to take decisions and shape their area. Our planning reforms lead by DCLG, will replace the old top-down planning system with real power for neighbourhoods to decide the future of their area. 
  • Opening up public services: our public service reforms will enable charities, social enterprises, private companies and employee-owned mutuals to compete to offer people high quality services. The welfare to work programme, lead by the Department for Work and Pensions will enable a wide range of organisations to help get Britain off welfare and into work. 
  • Social action: encouraging and enabling people to play a more active part in society. National Citizen Service, Community Organisers and Community First will encourage people to get involved in their communities.

The Big Society is about helping people to come together to improve their own lives. It’s about putting more power in people’s hands – a massive transfer of power from Whitehall to local communities.


The government has simplified the planning system so councils have the freedom to make decisions in the best interests of their area. Councils and communities should be central to a system that achieves socially, environmentally and economically sustainable development.



We want people to be able to influence decisions about new and modified buildings and facilities in their area. 

People have the right to get involved in development decisions that affect them but in practice they have often found it difficult to have a meaningful say.


To give people more control over the development of their local area, we are:

  • giving communities the power to set the priorities for local development through neighbourhood planning 
  • requiring local planning authorities to draw up clear, up-to-date Local Plans that conforms with the National Planning Policy Framework, meets local development needs and reflects local people’s views of how they wish their area to develop
  • giving councils the power to raise money to support local infrastructure through the community infrastructure levy 
  • giving councils new powers to stop unwanted development on gardens (so-called ‘garden grabbing’)

Neighbourhood planning

Neighbourhood planning gives communities the power to:

  • agree a neighbourhood development plan
  • make a neighbourhood development order
  • make a Community Right to Build order

Neighbourhood development plans

A neighbourhood development plan can establish general planning policies for the development and use of land in a neighbourhood, like:

  • where new homes and offices should be built
  • what they should look like

The plan can be detailed or general, depending what local people want.

Neighbourhood plans allow local people to get the right type of development for their community, but the plans must still meet the needs of the wider area. In most cases we expect this will mean that neighbourhood plans will have to take into account the local council’s assessment of housing and other development needs in the area.

Neighbourhood development orders

A neighbourhood development order allows the community to grant planning permission for development that complies with the order. This removes the need for a planning application to be submitted to the local authority.


Community Right to Build orders

A Community Right to Build order gives permission for small-scale, site-specific developments by a community group.

Neighbourhood forums

Neighbourhood planning will be led by the local parish or town council. In areas without a parish or town council, new neighbourhood forums will take the lead. 

In areas which are predominately commercial, the neighbourhood forum can be led by a business neighbourhood forum.

Role of the local planning authority

The local planning authority must provide support to help people develop their neighbourhood plan. For example, it will organise the independent examination of the neighbourhood development plan, neighbourhood development order or Community Right to Build order. This is to check that the plan or order meets certain minimum conditions. 

In the vast majority of cases, it will be the local planning authority which will pay for and run the neighbourhood planning referendum. The referendum ensures that the local community has the final say on whether a neighbourhood development plan, neighbourhood development order or a Community Right to Build order comes into force in their area.