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25 July 2018
Local authorities have been granted oversight authority status for new town development corporations. Regulations are due to be approved by parliament. Here are the headlines.
What is it all about?
The government has refreshed the post-war mechanism to deliver new towns in order to help deliver the growing number of garden cities, towns and villages proposed. The mechanism, which delivered the likes of Stevenage and Crawley and by which a corporation is responsible for developing a settlement, has been given a local flavour.
New towns are planned settlements built using the powers of the New Towns Act 1981 (or preceding legislation). An organisation known as a development corporation is set up in order to deliver the new town. Once the new town is established, the development corporation is dissolved and responsibilities and assets passed to the local authority (or local authorities) of the area in which the new town is built.
To date, central government has overseen new town development but the new regulations would, in essence, enable local government to oversee a new town development corporation. The local authority (or local authorities, if the new town will straddle authorities’ boundaries) would be known as the oversight authority.
The government consulted on the proposed regulations over the Christmas period. Having taken into account the responses to the consultation, draft regulations were introduced to parliament in early June and came into force on 24 July 2018. The government published a summary of the consultation responses and its response alongside the draft regulations. It has also published guidance aimed at supporting readers’ understanding of the regulations and setting its expectations for applications.
How is the process to establish a locally led new town started?
The local authority (or authorities) will need to apply to the Secretary of State requesting an order is made to:
designate an area to be a new town
appoint the local authority (or authorities) as the oversight authority
establish the new town development corporation.
Ultimately the order will need to be approved by parliament. The government envisages that locally-led development corporations will only happen if:
all the local authorities covering the area of the new town support a locally-led development corporation
those local authorities have a strong evidence base demonstrating that the site is suitable for development at the scale proposed
appropriate consultation has been undertaken locally.
The local authority’s application will need to reflect that.
The government anticipates that allocation of a site in an adopted local plan is likely to create a presumption that the requisite evidence and consultation criteria have been met.
In its guidance, the government also sets out that the applicant will need to demonstrate:
deliverability of the new town (including financial modelling covering the whole lifecycle)
that the locally led new town mechanism is the best route to deliver the settlement, as opposed to another private or public-sector led delivery model
governance proposals, which should include a balance between independence and oversight of the development corporation and a mechanism to review the corporation to ensure it remains fit for purpose throughout its lifetime
high quality place making, long-term plans for how community assets will be funded once the development corporation has been dissolved and details about governance arrangements that will support community participation.
The applicant will also need to consider whether a strategic environmental assessment and habitats assessment are needed. Again, the government expects that where the proposal is part of the local plan, this material may already have been prepared.
On to designation
After examining the application, the government will undertake its own consultation. Following this, the Secretary of State decides whether it is expedient in the national interest to designate the new town. If so, he will lay the order in parliament for debate and approval.
Once a new town is designated, how are the responsibilities shared?
The functions relating to new towns are set out in the New Towns Act 1981. These provisions are modified by the regulations to reflect the balance of responsibilities between the oversight authority and the Secretary of State. The draft regulations set out:
which functions of the Secretary of State will be exercised by the oversight authority (for example, the granting of planning permission, acquisition or disposal of land by the development corporation, the authorising of entry for surveying or valuing land and appointing board members of the development corporation)
which functions will only be exercised by the Secretary of State with consent of the oversight authority (for example, confirming any compulsory purchase orders, making an order for the dissolution of the development corporation and the disposal of surplus funds).