The coming year promises to be a busy one for all involved in housing, planning, climate change, waste and environmental policy and delivery. It got off to a good start with the report of the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Select Committee Inquiry into the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The report helpfully endorses many of the arguments put forward by the Local Government Association (LGA). Significantly the committee agrees with the LGA that the final NPPF must provide a better balance between economic, environmental and social issues so that elected councillors can decide weighting and trade-offs between priorities at local level. The committee also supported a proper transition process to allow councils adequate time to get sensible plans and new evidence bases underpinning them in place and explicitly recommends that the Government establish a timetable for a transition period in consultation with local government. I have since written to Greg Clark MP to take this forward and the LGA will continue to press on your behalf for reasonable transition arrangements.
We have a number of upcoming events for which places are still available. The Waste, Recycling and Localism conference on 2 February will provide an opportunity to discuss the latest developments and direction of travel on the waste agenda. Finally, make sure you don't miss the Meeting local housing needs seminar. I will chair this free event for elected members, which will provide an opportunity to hear from Lord Best and Pat Ritchie, Chief Executive, Homes and Communities Agency among other notable speakers.
This edition of the bulletin updates you with LGA developments across the environment and housing sectors,
and provides information about useful resources for your authority. However, please do feel free to submit any ideas you may have and in particular to share information about any good work your councils are doing with regard to tackling climate change, energy, housing, planning and waste. Please email email@example.com with your suggestions.
Cllr David Parsons CBE
Chairman, LGA Environment and Housing Board
The CLG Select Committee published its long-awaited report on the draft NPPF on 21 December 2011, to which the LGA had submitted both written and oral evidence. Overall, the report is supportive of the LGA's arguments. For example, the committee agreed that the final NPPF must provide a better balance between economic, environmental and social issues so that elected councillors can decide the priorities at local level.
The report also suggested that the presumption in favour of sustainable development should be redefined as "a presumption in favour of sustainable development consistent with the local plan". The report went on to explicitly recommend that the Government establish a timetable for a transition period in consultation with local government, as well as recommending that the NPPF unambiguously reflect the statutory supremacy of local plans, in accordance with the 2004 Planning Act.
The Government is currently consulting on their flagship environmental programme, the 'Green Deal', a new way to finance energy efficiency improvements for homes and buildings. Supported by new guidance for the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995, councils are expecting to have a key role in ensuring the success of the Green Deal. Many councils are already carving out a strong role for themselves by seeking to procure Green Deal services in their areas, including Birmingham, Newcastle and West Sussex.
The Green Deal will be supported by an ongoing obligation on energy companies to provide additional financial support for expensive improvement measures, such as solid wall insulation, for low income householders vulnerable to the health effects of living in cold homes. The closing date for the consultation is 18 January and the LGA will be submitting a response. If you have any issues you would like to be raised please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The High Court has ruled that including a reference date to implement the lower tariff for solar before the end of the consultation was not legal. The Government is appealing this decision. It is currently unclear whether the ruling voids the entire consultation, or just the 12 December 'reference date'.
The Government launched a consultation on its proposed changes to the right-to-buy policy on 22 December. These changes were trailed in the Government's housing strategy, published in November.
The Government's consultation paper sets out the intention to increase the maximum discount to Â£50,000 across England. It also proposes to replace every additional home sold with a new affordable rented home. The consultation invites views on a number of options for handling the receipts from sales and providing the new homes. The consultation lasts for six weeks and will end on 2 February 2012. The LGA will be submitting a response to the consultation as well as meeting with officials from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) during the consultation period.
The House of Commons Library published a briefing note on 4 January on the National Planning Policy Framework.
The Energy and Climate Change and Environmental Audit Committees issued their report on Feed-in Tariffs on 22 December, to which the LGA had submitted evidence. As well as advocating a more orderly and timely review, the report calls for a 'community tariff' that would take account of the impact on community groups and social housing projects.
Councillor David Parsons, Chair of the LGA's Environment and Housing Programme Board, presented to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Regeneration through Innovation on 13 December. Discussing the subject of waste and recycling, Councillor Parsons touched on the new DCLG Â£250 million funding pot, the impact of localism, and the interrelation between planning and waste infrastructure.
The Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee have announced a new inquiry into the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Water White Paper. The terms of reference of the inquiry include a focus on issues such as reform of the market, water efficiency, sustainable drainage, and the affordability of water bills. The deadline for written submissions is 23 January.
2 February 2012 | London
Waste is a headline issue for Government, councils, residents and businesses. A challenging economic climate and receding council budgets are making it even tougher to deal with waste sustainably and to improve recycling rates. With a focus on localism in government policy, there are important connections, but also tensions, on provision of waste management and recycling services and the necessary associated infrastructure. As the actions from the Waste Review and related developments begin to take shape this conference presents an important opportunity to take stock and examine the next steps and future activity for local authorities.
23 January 2012 | London
There are major reforms taking place in housing. From substantial reductions in the housing grant to the introduction of greater financial autonomy, powers to respond to local housing need a duty to cooperate. When placed alongside changes to tenure, regulation, welfare reform and health reform it is clear that councils will have to provide strong strategic leadership to deliver the homes that are required to meet the needs of local areas.
27 February 2012 | London
Kick-starting and sustaining local economic growth in the current economic context will require a real change in the way we plan for and deliver more homes, create more jobs and regenerate our cities, towns and villages. Fundamental reforms to the planning system, alongside the decentralisation agenda and the Government's Plan for Growth, seek to give councils greater powers, responsibility and opportunity to stimulate growth while giving communities greater control over development. This 'must attend' conference will explore these opportunities and provide practical advice on how councils can work collaboratively to realise their ambitions for creating strong and prosperous communities.
Mary Portas has highlighted safe, attractive, enjoyable streets in her vision for town centres. Living Streets, the national charity that stands up for pedestrians, is helping local authorities improve their towns and neighbourhoods. Find out how their Community Street Audits and other approaches can help you create high streets where people want to walk and shop.
The Improvement and Efficiency Awards recognise the transformation in local public services for councils, police and fire authorities and those in the private and third sector supporting local services. There are 13 categories but for those interested in waste, the Transformation in Waste and Environment category – presented to the project, department or partnership showing the most progress in developing waste management and environmental services – will be most relevant.
Deadline for submission is Friday 20 January 2012.
A smartphone app providing recycling and waste disposal information has proved popular, with more than 530 residents downloading it since its launch in October 2011.
The Recycle for Ashford app, by Ashford Borough Council, allows residents to find out blue box collection dates, search for their nearest recycling and waste disposal centres, find out what items can be recycled where and set collection reminders.
Councillor Jessamy Blanford, portfolio holder for Environment, said: "We are glad to see the Recycle for Ashford app has proven popular with residents and hope this has made finding out information quicker and easier.
"The council has been contacted by several other local authorities who are looking to launch their own versions of the app."
An LGA press release warning that cuts to solar panel subsidies would lead to steeper bills generated a story in Monday's Daily Telegraph. The story, which was followed up by several trade websites, quoted LGA Environment Board Chairman Councillor David Parsons saying that: "This is going to have a major impact on families who could have benefitted from cheaper energy. We have also seen that it is likely to lead to the loss of thousands of jobs as energy firms find contracts falling by the wayside."
30 January 2013