North West sites to spearhead neighbourhood plans

The Government has named locations in Liverpool and Greater Manchester among the eight new pilot areas in its business-led "neighbourhood planning" scheme.

Space North West's Innovation Park in Liverpool and the Trafford Park industrial estate in Greater Manchester are being given the opportunity to spearhead neighbourhood plans that make it easier to change the designated use of buildings and expand facilities following changes made to the localism bill by Planning Minister Greg Clark.

The British Chambers of Commerce and British Property Federation have been campaigning for this amendment to the localism bill and have worked with the Government to find a number of business neighbourhood 'frontrunners'.

The original government plans were designed to enable neighborhood groups to "shape where they live" with councils no longer dominating the planning process.

Liverpool Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the inclusion of the Innovation Park within the eight pilot business neighbourhoods.

Maresa Molloy, head of policy and information at Liverpool Chamber, said: "Our concern has been that the Bill assumes that all neighbourhoods are largely residential whereas many are primarily commercial. The Government is set to amend the provisions in the Localism Bill so that neighbourhoods that are primarily commercial in nature would be able to create their own Business Neighbourhood Plans, that would, of course, take account of the views of residents."

Ministers claim that the process will not sideline local people as residents will still have the opportunity to veto the plans, which will have to be put to a referendum and be approved by the local council.

Planning Minister Clark added: "This heralds a new approach to local planning, enabling businesses as well as residents to take the lead in shaping their neighborhoods in partnership with local planning authorities."

The British Property Federation and the British Chambers of Commerce submitted a formal letter to Clark in order to demonstrate that the proposals have broad business support.

Molloy said: "This has been one of the priorities for BCC's year for growth campaign and Liverpool Chamber put forward the Innovation Park as an ideal frontrunner for Liverpool."

The Innovation Park was envisioned as an internationally-recognised engine of economic growth, designed as a prime location for investment in the growth of knowledge-intensive and technology-based small medium enterprise and multi-national businesses. The park is currently home to over 65 organisations and has over 500,000 sq ft of buildings, 12 acres of development plots. Potential exists to double the built environment to 1m sq ft.

Molloy added: "The advantages for business of this amendment are many; having a business voice rather that being subject to plans put together by others, this could lead to a simpler, faster planning service. A business neighbourhood plan could complement other local business initiatives that could create a strong pro-business environment whilst ensuring that the views of all appropriate interests were taken properly into account.

"The Innovation Park already has a good relationship with Liverpool City council that makes this possible and this initiative will allow them to build on that. Participating in, or initiating a business neighbourhood plan should also foster good relationships and collaborative working between residents, local business, land-owners and other parties. This will be increasingly important as pre application consultation requirements become more onerous. Such plans might also play a role in integrating business activity with the Big Society agenda, facilitating social enterprises and business start-ups."

Liverpool Innovation Park is operated by Space North West which is a joint venture between Ashtenne Industrial Fund and the North West Development Agency.

Trafford Park is home to 1,300 businesses employing 32,000 people.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said the other six pilot areas are Aldershot town centre, Bankside in London, Milton Keynes central, Team Valley Trading Estate in Gateshead, London's South Bank and West End.

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