THE owner of a longstanding architectural firm has warned that a new Government bill to put power into the hands of communities may stifle growth and development at an already critical time in the economy.

Martin Walsh, of Dewsbury-based Martin Walsh Associates, fears the proposed Localism Bill will give too much muscle to the minority who oppose development of any kind.

The Bill, which is now at committee stage in the Commons, sets out a range of ways in which power can be devolved from government to communities.

Crucially, for the building industry, these include neighbourhood forums where local people will be able to define developments and vote in referendums to decide where new shops, offices and houses should be built.

Mr Walsh, who celebrates 35 years in business, said: “With the Localism Bill, I fear that developments which create jobs, such as supermarkets and employment units, will suffer from the evolving BANANA – Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything – movement.

“I fear it will stifle developments and so stifle the growth of the economy.”

Mr Walsh said it was another blow to the Yorkshire building industry, which was already suffering from Prime Minister David Cameron’s plans to curb so-called garden grabbing.

“The policy makes sense in southern areas where garden developments are being abused, but in northern areas people don’t want to stick blocks of flats in someone’s garden,” he said.

“They are doing garden developments that are sympathetic and fit perfectly with the existing street scene.

“In lots of cases, these large gardens are crippling the old folk that are living in them.

“Building on the garden is a way to downsize and relieve the burden of looking after a large garden yet still live in the same spot they’ve always lived.”

Mr Walsh started his architectural consultancy practice in 1976.

Today, the family firm employs 13 members of staff and has been involved with more than 5,000 projects throughout the UK, taking on a wide variety of developments from factories to nursing homes as well as traditional office and residential projects.