LOCALISM BILL IS A MUDDLE FOR OPEN SPACES
The Open Spaces Society today roundly condemns the Localism Bill,(2) the governments
flagship measure for giving people power to run their own lives and neighbourhoods. The
bill is due for second reading in the House of Commons on Monday 17 January.
The societys general secretary, Kate Ashbrook, says: One of the bills
most important aspectsthe care and future of open spaceslacks any clear idea
of what is needed and is a muddle of conflicting provisions.
The societys case officer, solicitor Nicola Hodgson, has analysed the bill as
The bill requires every local authority to compile and maintain a list of land of
community value in its area, to remain on the list for up to five years, but inclusion on
the list appears to offer little protection to the land. If the owner of such land wishes
to dispose of it, a community interest group must be given an opportunity to bid.
We cannot see how the bill provides any new protection for open spaces which local
people enjoy for informal recreation. Indeed, once land is on the list, the owner may be
encouraged to consider selling it for development.
The purpose of the list of land of community value is not clear. Why does land only
remain on the list for five years, and what happens to it after that time? What protection
is offered to land on the list?
Land may be nominated for the list by others, but it is for the local authority to
decide whether it is included. Since much of the nominated land is likely to be owned by
the local authority, how can we be sure the authority will be sufficiently impartial?
If the owner of listed land wishes to dispose of it, a community interest group must
be given the opportunity to bid for it, but there is little chance that the group can
raise sufficient funds to buy the land, especially if it is at market value based on any
obtainable planning permission.
We fear that the bills provision for payment of compensation to landowners
will encourage them to put land of community value on the market.
And this bill does not mention the governments proposed new designation
... to protect green areas of particular importance to local communities heralded in
the business plans for the Department for Communities and Local Government and the
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. How does the bill fit in with those
We have called on MPs to ask these and other questions at the second reading debate
on Monday 17 January. This Bill needs to be rewritten if it is to offer any protection to
open spaces which are loved and enjoyed by local people, and if it is to enable and
empower those people to play a part in their protection, Nicola concludes.