The much talked about Localism Act will bring into force a range of changes that affect local authorities and planning. Much of this will come in to force on the 6 April 2012. This gives a greater role to local authorities under a 'general power of competence'. They will also be given greater powers to work with other councils in order to drive down costs and consider different ways of delivering services.
Some of the most revolutionary changes will be powers given to communities, such as the ability to challenge the running of Council services and propose cheaper alternatives, and the community 'right to buy' assets of community value. In terms of planning, communities will have a stronger role in developing planning policy through Neighbourhood Planning proposals, and a new requirement for developers to consult with the community on proposals before submitting a planning application.
This lets communities have more of a say on proposals, allowing them (within reason) to draw up a 'neighbourhood plan'. In 'unparished' areas such as London, the community and Council will need to define what a 'neighbourhood' is and the best group to draw up a plan.
We have been working with the Sydenham Society on this. In September we organised an event to discuss the key issues. This focused around four locations: Forest Hill, Honor Oak, Kirkdale and Sydenham/Lower Sydenham. This went very well and a report has been produced and is available on our website. An area that we want to work on is to have better information about the specific character of the area so this can be used to inform decisions about new development.
Our next steps include meetings with Lewisham Council, and the organisation of a Neighbourhood Forum. Then we will be working on a programme of community workshops and events over the next 12-18 months and seeking funding support for this.