The government is to grant the Homes and Communities Agency, its new housing and regeneration quango, the planning powers of a local authority, it became clear this week.

The powers are a significant advance on those of English Partnerships (EP) and the Housing Corporation, the two bodies that the agency is designed to replace.

The details were revealed in the Housing and Regeneration Bill published last Friday.

This gives the new agency the power to create development corporations in areas designated by the communities secretary.

Although EP had inherited the powers of the government’s post-war new towns corporations, it was not able to run development corporations.

In areas where the new agency has jurisdiction, it will be able to take over all planning functions from the local authority, including writing local development frameworks and determining planning applications.

We just hope that, where powers are being taken away from councils, there is effective community engagment

Phil Grant, RTPI

Like EP, it will also have the ability to compulsorily purchase land when necessary.

Jon Ladd, chief executive of the British Urban Regeneration Association, welcomed the news. He said it could lead to the founding of a raft of development corporations, which he said were “a great way to progress major change in an area. However, they have to be careful to work with the local authorities”.

Phil Grant, policy officer at the Royal Town Planning Institute, said the move, although not unexpected, was turning the clock back towards the new towns policies of the fifties.

He said: “We accept some special powers are needed. We just hope that, where powers are being taken away from elected local authorities, there is effective community engagement.”

The bill also includes proposals to make it easier for councils to get involved in building council housing, and to form an agency to take over the regulatory functions of the Housing Corporation over housing associations and other firms that build and run social housing schemes.