The Localism Bill is set to receive Royal Assent very shortly after the House of Commons accepted all the amendments made to it by the House of Lords.
The Bill, which was introduced to Parliament in December last year, will devolve more power from central government to local councils, so that communities have more control over housing and planning decisions in their areas.
Once Royal Assent is received (which should be a formality) and the relevant sections come into force, the Bill will, amongst other things:
1. Abolish the Regional Strategies;
2. Force local planning authorities (LPAs) to co-operate with each other on issues which cross council boundaries, particularly in relation to sustainable development and the use of land for strategic infrastructure.
3. Make changes to the Community Infrastructure Levy, so that LPAs will have greater control over the setting of their charges;
4. Introduce Neighbourhood development orders and plans (so local communities can specify where they think development should take place and how the local area should be planned);
5. Require developers to consult local communities before submitting planning applications for certain developments;
6. Introduce new enforcement measures for LPAs, including the power to reject retrospective planning applications; extend time limits on taking enforcement action against people who conceal unauthorised development; set new financial penalties; and increase powers to deal with unauthorised advertisements;
7. Abolish the Infrastructure Planning Commission, so that its functions can be transferred to a new unit in the Planning Inspectorate and decisions can be made by democratically elected (and accountable) government minsters; and
8. Reform the delivery of social housing.
Royal Assent could be given as early this week, but, if not, certainly before the end of the year; the Bill is then expected to come into force in April 2012 (although confirmation is still awaited.)
UPDATE: The Localism Bill received Royal Assent on 15 November 2011.