Observer on the Weaknesses of Localism

From Observer Editorial

The engagement of people affected by development is desirable, and is part of the government’s localism agenda, but it is insufficient on its own. The weakness of localism is that it assumes that citizens have the skills, knowledge and time to engage with complex planning issues when often they do not. This can expose them to greater risk of exploitation by undesirable development, not less.

If public opinions are the only constraining factor, the result is a kind of economic conflict. When planning is weak, it favours people with the resources to fight for their back yards – the groups that can hire lawyers, run campaigns and organise publicity. It means in practice that poorer areas, no matter how scenic, will find it harder to resist proposals. Large-scale construction will go not where it best fits a place, but where local people are most desperate for a bung. This can be seen in Hayle, where the supermarket is being presented as the only way to pay for maintenance of the harbour.