For some time I have been getting “unsettled” by the changes that are occurring in my local area, becoming more concerned about the way that planners seem to be taking our local community. Just take a look at some of my other posts to see my thoughts on the matter.
A few days ago I attended a meeting at which there was a presentation on the Localism Act and the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). To be quite honest I wasn’t quite sure why I was there. I do know that I have been shooting my mouth of about the lack of involvement there appears to be between the community, meaning me, and the planners. In recent times I had seen articles which referred to Community Board meetings. To be more specific the articles typically were referring to meetings that HAD taken place, past tense. Then I saw in the paper that a meeting was to take place at Horndean Technology College so I made a note in my diary and then forgot all about it. That is until the reminder popped up a few days before the due date.
So I took myself along and it soon became clear that I was there, somewhat under false pretenses, as a resident of Waterlooville. You see, this meeting was called by the East Hampshire District Council with focus primarily on Horndean, Cowplain and Rowlands Castle but nothing to do with Waterlooville which comes under Havant Borough Council.
The really sad thing is that there were only, including me, perhaps 3 or 4 members of public in attendance. The bulk of the attendees were local councillors. Yet, the subject of the meeting, The Localism Act, is all about pushing the responsibility for planning decisions away from central government, down to the local community.
Thats you and me folks.
I really knew nothing of the subject matter prior to the meeting. I just saw it as a point of entry for my interest in local planning affairs. Also I was hoping that I would be able to identify some contacts and sources of information.
The meeting ran along the usual lines reading of planned agenda, acceptance of previous minutes etc. etc.. Then the presentations began ….
The Localism Act came into being 15 November 2011. The intent of the act is to shift power from central government back into the hands of individuals, communities and councils.
The act is a recognition that central government has become too big, too interfering, too controlling and too bureaucratic. This has undermined local democracy and individual responsibility, and stifled innovation and enterprise within public services. The intention is create a shift in the balance of power and to decentralise power as far as possible.
“Localism” isn’t simply about giving power back to local government. Rather it shows the government trusts people to take charge of their lives and is prepared to push power downwards and outwards to the lowest possible level, including individuals, neighbourhoods, professionals and communities as well as local councils and other local institutions.
There are five key measures core this new approach to decentralisation.
- Community rights
General power of competence
Empowering cities and other local areas
You can read about the detail behind these bullets here
The other key item presented was CIL.
The Community Infrastructure Levy (Amendment) Regulations 2011 came into force on 6 April 2011 and is a levy on new developments over 100 square metres in size. The money raised by CIL will be ring fenced for local infrastructure.
In other words it is a tax.
Who is supposed to benefit from this tax ? Supposedly the community that has to suffer the new developments is the community that reaps the benefit from the moneys raised by the levy.
The money can be used to support development by funding infrastructure that the council, local community and neighbourhoods want – for example new or safer road schemes, park improvements or a new health centre. The system is very simple. It applies to most new buildings and charges are based on the size and type of the new development.
As I said earlier, he sad thing is that there were only a few members of public at the meeting. The whole point of the Localism Act and CIL is to put power back into the hands of the community.
Unfortunately, the community on the face of it doesn’t seem to care.
Personally I don’t think that is true. I think that people do care but they are not engaged by local council. The local councils don’t, in my opinion, do a very good job of communicating what is going on in their parishes and boroughs. From my own personal experience, when you do try to get involved it is difficult.
There are, apparently, Community Forums where this stuff is discussed. I tried to find out about the local Waterlooville forum and sent emails to the contacts published on the Havant Borough Council website. Either the links are dead or the owners of the email address choose not to respond.
Which is how I ended up as an interloper at an East Hampshire Community Forum meeting in Horndean.
My thanks to Cynthia Haveron who took the time to discuss the meeting set up with me, to introduce me to the Horndean representatives during the discussion period and also to send me contact names and email addresses for the Waterlooville Community Forums.