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Will thinking local help simplify the planning process?

Government efforts to stimulate the national economy are translating into plans to promote regeneration and infrastructure projects more locally.

One way the coalition is doing this is via the Localism Bill.

This seeks to make planning more “democratic” and will devolve responsibility for some projects to local authorities. The aim is that it will become law by the end of 2011.

One of the ideas is that devolving power will give, local authorities more of a hand in growth and development, and more control over securing private investment.

“There is a strong likelihood the Localism Bill will fail”

Stuart Robinson, CB Richard Ellis

Speaking at global property exhibition MIPIM, cost consultant CB Richard Ellis executive director and head of planning Stuart Robinson said lack of detail about ways to incentivise private investment was a major flaw.

“There is a strong likelihood the Localism Bill will fail,” he said.

“The bill does not go far enough in removing barriers to private firms managing - and benefiting from - public assets.”

Others suggest that where possible, a localism agenda - including the private sector - is already being pursued. One example is the Nine Elms development in south London.

It is described as the most centrally located regeneration opportunity in London - located 1.6km upstream from the Houses of Parliament.

Wandsworth Borough Council has granted planning consent for privately funded developments including REO/Treasury Holding’s Battersea Power Station scheme, St James’ development on the Tideway Industrial Estate site, and the United States Government’s plan for a new American Embassy on Nine Elms Lane.

But councillors are adamant that fulfilling the regeneration potential there now depends on major infrastructure development, specifically a proposed two station spur for Northern Line to connect the area to central London by Tube.

Such a project could be boosted with the announcement in the Budget with the announcement that the government will create 21 new Enterprise Zones.

Simplified planning rules and tax breaks for businesses, plus greater borrowing powers for local authorities are key features of the zones.

They could help projects like Wandsworth’s while going some way to showing how the government intends to clarify the planning regime but remains to be seen how this will extend to major public infrastructure projects.

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