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Background to The Alma Road Car Park Campaign

The Town and Country Planning Act, 1972 - Amendment

The following is an extract from PLANNING Magazine, 18th December 1998

Unitary councils have been handed special powers to grant approval for development on their own land and sell it on with the benefit of planning permission.

An amendment to the Town and Country Planning General Regulations 1992, effective since Tuesday, has been hailed as removing a hurdle in efforts to stimulate urban regeneration. It follows the Government's announcement that councils will be given greater freedom to sell land below market value.

Under the existing regulations, which will continue to apply to two-tier authorities, local authorities can only grant permission for the benefit of themselves or joint developers in such circumstances.

RTPI (Royal Town Planning Institute) planning policy chair Nick Davies described the government's move as "very important for urban regeneration, but only half of what is required."

He said it needed to be accompanied by a strengthening of compulsory purchase powers.
National Housing and Town Planning Council director Kelvin MacDonald said the amendment would enable authorities to implement regeneration schemes without having to do the developing themselves.

He said that the new powers could be seen as being open to abuse if unitary authorities prepared sites with the sole intention of reaping a capital gain for themselves, but added that this represented a "tiny downside compared with the positive benefits of the change".

Under the direction, any permission which represents a departure from the local authority's development plan would have to be referred to the Secretary of State. A local Government association spokeswoman pointed out that this requirement will provide a safeguard against councils abusing their new flexibility."


Our comment

The possibility that local councils can sell land to developers at a knock down price should set alarm bells ringing. As with any legislation, there are upsides and downsides. The intention, no doubt laudable, to sell off land to developers, complete with the requisite Plannning permission, is certainly open to abuse. Whilst it may well help in the stated aim to assist in urban regeneration in some situations, in Windsor it could well have lead to the permanent destruction of Open Space, a much needed facility already in short supply in Windsor, such as the Vansittart Recreation Ground.

We shall be keeping an eye on the way these additional powers are used by WMBC and we heartily recommend that all residents do so also.

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