In this, the second instalment following my recent presentation to local businesses on new laws coming into force in 2012 and how they impact upon business owners, I turn to The Localism Act 2011.

The Localism Act is the cornerstone of David Cameron’s “Big Society’ vision and brings about a range of changes, all aimed at getting more decisions to be taken at a local level. The Act includes:

Abolition of Home Information Packs (HIP) – Suspended since May 2010, now officially scrapped

Business Rates and Council Tax

  • Local Authorities to keep more of the rates they receive to invest in programmes to stimulate economic growth
  • Cancels unfair backdated business rates
  • Simplifies the process for claiming small business rate relief
  • Right to veto excessive council tax rises

Community Rights to Bid for Local Assets

  • Local Authorities must maintain a list of land assets which are considered of ‘community value’ such as pubs, shops and libraries.
  • Assets will stay on the list for a period of no more than 5 years.
  • Once the assets are on the list the owner cannot sell them without notifying the Local Authority.
  • The community are then to be given the opportunity to bid for the asset.

Neighbourhood Development Orders (NDO’s)

An NDO is a development order that deems planning permission to have been granted for specific developments or specified classes of development within all or part of a neighbourhood area.

Aimed at removing some of the obstacles to building, improving the lack of building in rural areas and speeding up the planning process, NDO’s will involve:

  • Greater community involvement in planning/ proposing development. Some decision-making power will be given to councils and neighbourhoods. If development plans are able to secure 50% of support in a local referendum, the plans will be deemed approved; thus, no planning permission via the traditional route is needed.
  • Local communities to have a greater say on approved developments. Working through a Parish Council or Neighbourhood Forum, local residents can specify where new developments should go and how they should look. Policies must be consistent with the Local Development Plan.
  • Local communities being able to comment on big development plans and the design of the proposed developments before the plans for such are finalised.

If you have any questions regarding the Localism Act and how it might affect your business, please do not hesitate to contact myself or one of our commercial property solicitors.

Next time, pensions and the new employer pension duties.