Worcester News Article

I expect this Government to be remembered for two things above all: driving down the deficit to strengthen our economy, and handing power back to local communities.
Weíve heard a lot about the deficit, and rightly so, but itís the second point that I want to talk about today. Next week the Localism Bill goes before Parliament for its second reading and thatís why I have written this week to all the Town and Parish Councils in my constituency to highlight some of its key measures.

The Bill is really important and will, I believe, make a great difference to local people. Local things really matter and itís good to have a government that recognises this.

The Bill will shift power from central government to local communities, ending the culture of ďWhitehall knows bestĒ. Instead local people will be able to run their lives and neighbourhoods in the way that they want.
The planning system will be radically reformed and communities will be granted control over housing decisions. Regional Spatial Strategies will be abolished.
Residents will be given the power to instigate local referendums on any local issue and the power to veto excessive council tax increases.
Councils will have new powers to help save local facilities and services threatened with closure. Voluntary and community groups will be given the right to challenge local authorities over their services.
Local communities will be able to propose development which, if it meets certain safeguards and gets 50% of support in a local referendum, can then be built without planning permission.
I share the concern of the people of Droitwich, Fernhill Heath, Hindlip and Martin Hussingtree that proposed planning developments could create one big urban sprawl from south Worcester to north Droitwich. Thatís why Iím so pleased the new Bill will ensure that communities will have more power over the planning applications that have threatened the character of communities.

Of course I agree we need more houses in Worcestershire to cope with a growing and ageing population Ė but these houses should go where local people want them, not where developers decides to build them. Itís time to trust the people again.

This Bill will mark the end of the era of big government and will lay the foundations for the Big Society. We can look forward to a year where power begins to return where it belongs Ė with the local community.

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