Community right to build
As part of the government's plan to create the ‘big society’, the Localism Act was introduced in 2011, transferring power from central and local government to local communities.
The regulations enable local people to bring forward and deliver small-scale, site-specific, community-led developments. Any financial benefits resulting from such developments remain within the community.
The community right to build is different from the development of neighbourhood plans as it relates to specific proposals, the development of which the community overseas. Neighbourhood plans in contrast simply allow local communities to influence development in their neighbourhood and under certain circumstances to grant planning permission.
To exercise the community right to build, members of a community first need to establish a corporate body that can function as a legal entity, entering into contracts and so on. Such bodies can take a number of forms, may be a new or an existing organisation (such as an existing parish council), and may involve partnerships with other organisations such as a local authority, private developers or housing associations.
The community organisation must then define the ‘neighbourhood area’ that the community right to build proposals will be contained within. If such an area does not already exist, the community group may agree one with the Local Planning Authority.
The nature of the proposals is entirely dependent on the aims of the community group. However, they must be for small-scale, site-specific developments and must be broadly consistent with local and national planning policies and compliant with any other laws.
It is a requirement of the regulations that the proposals are given publicity and that consultations are undertaken to enable the local community and certain specialist bodies to comment on them. An independent check of the Community Right to Build Order is then undertaken by an examiner appointed by the local authority. If the Order doesn’t meet the required standards, the examiner may recommend the changes.
The local authority are then required to hold a referendum. If more than 50% of the people voting in the referendum support the Community Right to Build Order then the Local Planning Authority must grant planning permission. The community’s corporate body then oversees the development and decides how any profits should be used within the community.
The Government initially provided some funding through the Community Right to Build Fund to support communities in developing their proposals. However, following a lack of applications, access to this funding was extended in 2013 to include community groups and self builders who do not intend to prepare a formal Right to Build Order, but are developing projects though the normal planning system. The Community Right to Build Fund was changed into the Community Led Project Support programme, making £14m available until March 2014. This funding is only available in England, and excludes London for which there are separate provisions.
There are concerns about the community right to build:
- What will happen to the profits generated by development?
- Whether it will only empower a particular section of the community, already used to wielding power.
- What resources and advice will be made available to local communities?
- Whether private developers will exploit this new right to build.
- What are the rules for the timing and funding of referendums?
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