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Localism

Volume 569: debated on Monday 21 October 2013

5. What steps he is taking to promote the take-up of the community rights introduced by the Localism Act 2011. (900553)

The provisions of the Localism Act 2011 have been able to be adopted for the past 12 months, and there have already been more than 1,000 such uses. We continue to promote use of the 2011 Act through local partners and the media. In addition, I am discussing the potential for cross-Government working, combining community rights and volunteering.

A play park in East Looe in my constituency has been identified for possible housing development. It is the only green space in the area where children can play and where wildlife can live. What steps can the residents take under community rights to protect their long established and important local amenity?

My hon. Friend and other coalition colleagues across Cornwall will be pleased to know that Cornwall is a hotspot for use of the 2011 Act. In my first couple of days in office, officials showed me a map revealing that the 2011 Act had been incredibly popular, with more than 50 assets so far having been registered as being of community use. Through local plans across Cornwall itself, or through neighbourhood plans, local communities should be able to identify areas for special protection and use a local neighbourhood plan to attract sufficient homes, jobs and other essential services. My advice to my hon. Friend is that she should perhaps use a neighbourhood plan.

When the Secretary of State visited ex-Ministry of Defence sites in Lincolnshire, he saw first hand the poor state they can be left in when the transfer of community assets is done badly by the MOD. What discussions has the Department for Communities and Local Government had with the Ministry of Defence to ensure that in future there is better transfer of assets, such as those in the Kirton-in-Lindsey area in my constituency, and that we do not have continuing sores in our communities, as has been the case in parts of Lincolnshire as a result of heritage?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that issue; he will understand that I have not been aware of it in my first couple of weeks in office. I understand that the Secretary of State is aware of it and has already corresponded with the Ministry of Defence about it. I am sure that we will be in touch as soon as we hear an answer from ministerial colleagues.

Will the Minister join me in congratulating my parish council in Chalfont St Peter on taking advantage of the Localism Act and producing a fantastic neighbourhood plan, which has been published this month and will be consulted on until 29 November? Does he agree that an important part of localism is getting local people to respond to such plans? Will he give some encouraging words from the Dispatch Box to residents in Chalfont St Peter, to ensure that we get maximum feedback on that excellent local plan?

One of the areas I was really pleased to find that I had responsibility for when I took up this post was neighbourhood planning, because my own constituency has made good use of it. The residents of Chalfont St Peter should be congratulated on embarking on this process. I am sure that any assistance that the Department can give and any guidance that is available will lend a hand.