Saturday, January 1, 2011

Localism in the United Kingdom

I’m delighted to be contributing to the Land Use Prof blog, particularly at a time when land use is high on the agenda in the United Kingdom and an area of major reform for the new coalition Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government. Just before Christmas, following repeated delays (one amused allegation on Twitter was that the drafters were having difficulties in pinning down a definition of community) the long awaited 2010 Localism Bill was published. To say that land use lawyers, administrators and planners were excited would be an understatement. Twitter and blogs were buzzing with summaries, questions and comments about the Bill.

The premise of localism, and its aim of devolving greater decision-making on land use to the local neighbourhood level, has captured the public imagination although many are cautious about its potential to transform localities in a time of austerity. There is concern, particularly on the left, that this articulation of localism and the Conservative’s election commitment to a rather vague and poorly understood notion of a ‘Big Society’ can provide further justification for a small State. Specifically, there is a sense that while stable and affluent communities may be able to invest time and resources in local projects, more vulnerable or transient communities may become exposed. These differences may be amplified if there are insufficient resources to encourage and facilitate local decision-making (on land use and in relation to local services more generally) and if local government budgets are, as expected, severely reduced with services withdrawn. 

So far, many of the details of how land use localism will operate in practice have still to be fleshed out in statutory and non-statutory guidance (despite the Bill running to 184 pages without Schedules). More information will become available as the Bill makes its way through the House of Commons and the House of Lords, before becoming an Act of Parliament. I will continue to update on the Bill’s progress and the regulatory articulation of localism on this blog as many strands will pose familiar questions for readers in the United States and beyond.

Antonia Layard

Comparative Land Use, Constitutional Law, Planning | Permalink

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