London updates: What will the Government's Localism Bill mean for London's art in the public realm?

The Government's Localism Bill was introduced into the House of Commons on 13 December 2010. The Bill proposes to devolve greater powers to councils and neighbourhoods and give local communities more control over housing and planning decisions. The Bill has had its second and third readings in the House of Commons. and after amendments, is now going forward to the House of Lords.

This update builds on Open-City’s briefing on the Bill in January 2011. The impact of the Bill on London’s art in the public realm is likely to be through changes to planning policy and the specific ability for the Mayor of London to set-up Mayoral Development Corporations (MDC). The Bill brings together and clarifies a number of changes already underway such as the use of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).

Planning Policy Changes

  • The Bill outlines the opportunity for communities to generate their own neighbourhood plans. The form, status and content of these neighbourhood plans are still fluid. They will have to be consistent with Local Plans (Local Development Frameworks) and three government pilots are underway in the London Borough of Southwark, London Borough of Sutton and City of Westminster. They could herald the ability of communities to become more involved in their local areas and potentially have more of a say over art in the public realm. The power to decide how much funding is available and to which community is likely to rest with the local planning authority.
  • The Bill allows for the new CIL to be passed for use to other bodies, such as communities. This new levy can be used to replace other Local Authority planning agreements with developers, or work alongside them. For culture to be acceptable under CIL, it must be evidenced to inform the use of a charging schedule.
  • CIL’s full effect will not take place until 2014, and most London local authorities are still working out how they will use it. The use of CIL could change the way that some public art is funded through planning agreements, potentially giving more power to local residents and allowing for the pooling of contributions across a number of sites. The London Borough of Redbridge is currently piloting CIL.

Mayoral Powers and Mayoral Development Corporations

  • The Bill proposes some planning powers returning to the local authorities from the Mayor of London. However, the Mayor of London will also be able to designate parcels or areas of land as a Mayoral Development Area. MDCs will have the powers to become the Local Planning Authority for the purposes of plan-making and development control.
  • The current Mayor of London is proposing one MDC, the Olympic Park Legacy Corporation, to take over the role of the existing Olympic Park Legacy Company as well as other assets from regeneration agencies in the Park area, including the London Thames Gateway Development Corporation, and focused on a wider area than the Olympic Park. We responded to the Mayor’s consultation document on the role and purpose of the proposed Olympic Park Legacy Corporation, advocating for the inclusion of a cultural role for the public realm (for our response click here).
  • The London Development Agency will be abolished through the Bill.

For Open-City’s general briefing note including a response from Professor
Janice Morphet, Visiting Professor at University College London and Director of rmjm Consulting
, click here.