Alistair Millar, an agricultural lawyer at Tallents Solicitors in Southwell explains three key aspects of the Act, which could affect rural landholdings.
In November 2011, the Localism Bill received Royal Assent and became the Localism Act 2011. It is designed to empower small communities and give them a say in the government’s National Planning Policy Framework.
Although a large majority of the Act is not yet in force and is not expected to be so until April 2012, anyone who owns rural land should be aware of how these three key areas of the Act might affect them: Assets of Community Value (ACVs), Neighbourhood Development Orders (NDOs) and Enforcements against concealed development.
Assets of Community Value
Local bodies will be able to nominate buildings and land to be listed as ACVs, such as pubs, village shops and cricket pitches. Says Alistair:
This means that if the ‘listed’ property is sold or leased, the local body will have a ‘right to bid’. Although this will not be a right to buy, a ‘listing’ could delay any sale, or lease, in the same way that a right of pre-emption does. Landowners should be prepared to deal with this new right and consider possible effects on future transactions.
Neighbourhood Development Orders
Local communities will be given a real voice in deciding the look and feel of any development in their towns and, for the first time, they will be able to decide the types of development given automatic planning permission through NDOs.
For landowners this means that parish councils and other approved local bodies will have considerable power when proposing future development. Planning will have to be in accordance with national and local strategic policies, be passed by an examiner, and by 50% of votes in a local referendum. Achieving a NDO will not be a straightforward process.
Enforcements against concealed developments
There have been cases in the last couple of years where building developments have been ‘concealed’ in a barn and also behind hay bales. Constructed without planning permission, the buildings were then occupied for more than four years in the hope that a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use and Development (CLEUD) would then be issued.
Without any intent to conceal, it is possible that large tracts of land may contain buildings which were built more than four years ago without planning permission, but for which a CLEUD hasn’t been obtained.
The Act will give Local Authorities a one-year window, after they learn about the breach of planning, during which they may seek enforcement of the planning permissions. However, the Act may raise questions with buyers, tenants and lenders when a property is being marketed without appropriate CLEUDs.
Although not yet law, the Localism Act 2011 may have wide-reaching implications for rural landowners. If you have any concerns about how the Act may affect you, then we recommend you speak to an experienced agricultural lawyer sooner rather than later.